An Ottawa school bus driver has been fired after she left a busload of children in a Walmart parking lot while she went inside the store.
Ottawa Student Transportation Authority (OSTA) general manager Vicky Kyriaco told CBC News the driver, who was driving children home from Cedarview Middle School, didn't follow proper procedure when she made the pit stop Thursday afternoon.
According to OSTA, the driver turned off the ignition and went into the Walmart store at Strandherd and Longfields drives in Barrhaven for about 20 minutes. The children on the bus, which was full at the time, range in age from 11 to 14.
Kyriaco said it appears the driver was experiencing some sort of "emergency," but the precise reason for the stop isn't clear.
'We want to make sure that [parents] know this isn't going to happen again.' - Vicki Kyriaco, OSTA
"Certainly everyone has their own personal health circumstances that might require a pit stop, but no matter what, there should always be communication with the operator," Kyriaco said.
"There are alternate options certainly to make sure the students are safe and that we also deal with the driver's needs."
According to OSTA procedure, a driver who has to leave children on a bus for whatever reason must contact the dispatcher to ensure the safety of the passengers, said Kyriaco. The driver did not follow procedure in this case.
Principal notified parents
Brian Begbie, principal of Cedarview Middle School, sent an email to parents of the children on route V158 Friday afternoon. In it, Begbie quotes a letter he received from OSTA:
"Some students have reported that their bus driver parked their bus at a Walmart before completing her run, yesterday. According to these students, the driver left students unattended on the bus for a period of approximately 20 minutes. The driver had turned the bus off and removed the keys.
"No injuries have been reported. We are committed to ensuring the safety of your children and wanted you to know that there had been unusual circumstances with your child's trip home yesterday."
"OSTA and the Operator have conducted an investigation. It has been concluded that the driver was not authorized to stop and did not communicate her intentions appropriately. She has been removed from this route and will no longer be driving any OSTA routes."
Kyriaco said she found out about the situation Friday morning and took immediate action to safeguard student safety.
"We want parents to understand that we really are committed to the safety of their children while they're riding the bus. We want to make sure that they know this isn't going to happen again. And, at the time, they were in a secured vehicle. They were safe and they'll continue to be riding on a safe bus."