Hamilton

Hamilton school boards say worsening bus driver shortage means 'serious delays' during COVID-19

Hamilton school boards say the area's bus driver shortage has only worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, delaying plans to figure out student transportation as schools reopen next week.

Bus schedules will be shared early next week and are subject to change

Hamilton school boards say the area's bus driver shortage has only worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, delaying plans to figure out student transportation as schools reopen next week. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Hamilton-Wentworth Student Transportation Services (HWSTS)​​​​​​ has told both the public and Catholic school boards that an ongoing bus driver shortage has only gotten worse due to COVID-19, which means there will be "serious delays in student transportation services."

The boards were hoping to have figured out busing plans on Friday since schools reopen next week.

Pat Daly, chair of Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board, told CBC he and the public board thought student transportation might be more challenging this year, but "not to the extent we're at."

He said a normal year sees a shortage of 25 to 30 drivers and this year is "substantially beyond that" but couldn't provide an exact number.

"It's just a very unfortunate reality and the perfect storm in terms of the ongoing challenge of bus driver shortage and the added impact of COVID that clearly has caused a number of drivers not to want to return," he explained.

A joint statement from Daly and Alex Johnstone, chair of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, says schedules will be shared through the HWSTS Parent Portal on Tuesday and that they should check the portal frequently and before the first bus pick-up to ensure the most up-to-date times.

 "Parents are cautioned that bus delays are anticipated," reads the statement.

Busing has been one of the primary concerns for families this year, especially for rural families who feel neglected there won't be mid-day bus options.

One bus driver also told CBC she wasn't sure if she would get behind the wheel due to the increased risks of working during the pandemic.

Both school boards have made masking mandatory for all students on buses to help make conditions safer.

Daly said both boards are working "tirelessly" to offer the highest level of service it can.

The public board recently received $400,693 from the province to help with student transportation and is still trying to decide how it will spend the money, but was hoping for more money. 

Johnstone previously said she has spoken to the Ministry of Education about school buses since the summer.


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Bobby Hristova

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Bobby Hristova is a reporter/editor with CBC Hamilton. Email: bobby.hristova@cbc.ca

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