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Ottawa school bus route release delayed amid possible driver shortage

For many students, the start of school is less than two weeks away, but there remain questions of whether those who need a bus will get one.

The local transportation authority has yet to release routes, which has many parents on edge.

The Ottawa Student Transportation Authority (OSTA) was supposed to inform parents on Wednesday of the upcoming school bus routes for children, but has now delayed that until Aug. 30, because of what it called "operational pressures."

And while Rekha Narwal's two sons are excited for the school year to begin, she worries about how they will get there.

"I don't find it amusing as a parent that they are leaving us in a mess," she says. "They had 60 days to figure this out and last year too, we had this issue that we faced a driver shortage."

Throughout the 2022 school year, OSTA faced major problems. A staffing shortage caused bus routes to be cancelled. In some cases, parents were notified only hours before the bus was supposed to arrive.

"We have just one car, so it was tough on us," says Narwal, "and our bus driver kept changing. The kids don't understand; the bus is part of school and they want a familiar face when they get on the bus, and they can feel scared when this is happening again and again."

OSTA is also facing more than a driver issue. There is also disagreement about costs and there does not appear to be any deal in place.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, the city's largest board, confirmed that contract negotiations are ongoing, but had no further details.

The Ottawa Catholic School Board noted it expects to receive more information from OSTA by the end of the week, to identify potential diver shortages or other issues with its school startups.

School boards outside Ottawa are also facing similar challenges. Earlier this week, Student Transportation of Eastern Ontario, which serves the Upper Canada District School Board and the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario, said its latest offer to bus companies was rejected and it warned of possible disruptions when classes resume in September. Bus operators say they are facing dramatically rising costs and are seeking third-party mediation to help settle the dispute. Top Stories

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