Ottawa Student Transportation Authority warns short-term school bus cancellations are possible when classes resume
The Ottawa Student Transportation Authority warns school bus trips could be cancelled at a moment's notice due to COVID-19 when students return to class next week.
Students with the Ottawa Carleton District School Board and Ottawa Catholic School Board return to class on Monday for the first time since before Christmas. Classes have been held online since Jan. 5.
Yellow school bus and van service for Kindergarten to Grade 12 students will resume on Monday after the break.
However, the organization responsible for all school transportation say there "may be an increase in service disruptions" related to COVID-19 short-and-long-term.
"We are doing everything we possibly can to get as much service out on Monday as possible," said Ottawa Student Transportation Authority general manager Vicky Kyriaco.
"One of the issues that we can't control, of course, is whether drivers are going to be sick or not and everybody has to isolate along the way. So, we are hoping as many as possible will be out on day one."
The Ottawa Student Transportation Authority says drivers may be forced to self-isolate due to COVID-19, meaning short-term cancellations may occur day-to-day.
"Depending on circumstances, some routes may return to normal within a day or two, while others may be cancelled for a longer period of time," said the OSTA.
Kyriaco says the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority is also dealing with a driver shortage that has been plaguing the system since the start of the school year.
"We still have a driver shortage. We are still working to find a solution," said Kyriaco during an interview on CTV Morning Live.
"We have had some drivers, new drivers have been hired and we're continuing to work with the operators to help them recruit and get the word out that we still need drivers."
Approximately 85 per cent of school bus drivers are fully vaccinated. Unvaccinated drivers must undergo rapid antigen testing twice a week.
TIPS FOR PARENTS
The Ottawa Student Transportation Authority is asking parents and guardians to assess their child's health before they board the bus.
"If your child has COVID-19 symptoms, do not put them on the bus/van or drop them off at school," said the OSTA.
Kyriaco says there is still a seating plan in place for all school buses, with students assigned a seat.
"It's really important for parents to remind their kids to sit in their assigned seat."
All students are required to wear a mask on the bus. Drivers have been provided personal protective equipment, including non-fit tested N95 masks or medical-grade masks, face shields, goggles and rapid antigen tests.