The Ottawa Student Transportation Authority advises parents and caregivers that lack of school bus drivers causes service disruptions just as children return to class.
Students returned for personal learning on Tuesday, though buses were canceled in the wake of a massive winter storm that pushed schools online Monday.
But OSTA says they have learned that more than 20 drivers will not return this week, and some will not return at all.
“Due to an increase in COVID-19 cases in Ottawa due to Omicron, there will be an increase in service disruptions affecting multiple routes,” OSTA said. “Over the past weekend, OSTA has learned that over 20+ drivers will not return to service, either temporarily or permanently. This will potentially affect 3,500-4,000 students in addition to those whose routes have already been canceled.”
OSTA warned of possible route cancellations when personal learning resumed, saying last week that they expect drivers will be on sick leave.
“We’re doing everything we can to get as much service out on Monday as possible,” Ottawa Student Transportation Director General Vicky Kyriaco said in an interview with CTV Morning Live.
“One of the issues that we obviously can’t control is whether the drivers get sick or not and everyone has to isolate themselves along the way. So we hope that as many as possible will be out on day one.”
All short-term cancellations will be posted on OSTA’s delay and cancellation page. Any long-term cancellations will be posted on OCDSB and OCSB cancellation lists.
“The shortage of drivers has made it difficult for operators to cover routes with reserve drivers,” the authority said. “OSTA and its operators work together using a range of strategies to reinstate routes. Long-term solutions are a top priority; however, short-term solutions can be used to ensure coverage.”
BUS DRIVER FEELS SIGNED
With the rules around how parents are informed about COVID-19 cases in changing schools, some school bus drivers say they are being left out.
A bus driver, Susan, told Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa Now with Kristy Cameron that she did not plan to return to driving the bus before the Omicron wave subsided.
“I made the decision after hearing the Minister of Education talk about all the new rules and regulations and this 30 per cent notification, just as 30 per cent of children and teachers must be absent before informing anyone,” she said. “During all this, they never mentioned any bus drivers or our safety. We are getting tired of being left behind and forgotten.”
The province said it would no longer track positive COVID-19 cases in schools and instead focus on students and teachers who are absent and make data available from next week. Parents will be notified of an outbreak if 30 percent of students and staff from a particular school are absent. In some schools, it can be hundreds of people.
Susan, who did not give her last name on the air, said the pandemic has increased each driver’s workload.
“They have lost so many bus drivers and they have had to double all the runs. So that means we have loaded buses and we have two schools, twice the risk,” she said. longer with this 30 percent notification. We were never really informed before; it will be even smaller now. ”
Susan said she has an underlying lung disease and no longer feels safe. She has been driving school buses for seven years.
“When do they start protecting us?” she asked.
She said drivers have been given N95 masks but hers does not fit her face properly and the fact that it protrudes in front makes it difficult to drive.
Susan said she would like to see COVID-19 contact tracking resumed and bus drivers informed.
“If there is a child who has COVID on one of the other buses, before, they were informed, but now they are not informed. I want the daily things,” she said.