Nova Scotia

East Hants parents taken aback by last-minute school bus schedule changes

A change in school bus schedules announced two days before the start of school by the Chignecto-Central Regional Centre for Education in East Hants has left some parents frustrated.
Parents say they received notice of a bus schedule change less than 72 hours before the reopening of schools. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Some parents in East Hants were left scrambling to juggle their schedules after the Chignecto-Central Regional Centre for Education sent out a notice on Friday afternoon notifying them of a change to the school bus schedule.

The notice told parents that the #63 bus would pick up children around 90 minutes later starting Monday.

According to the notice, the centre had not been able to secure a replacement driver and had "exhausted options" other than other bus drivers doing multiple runs. 

The centre said it recognized that the change might cause disruption.

In response to questions from CBC News, the centre said in an email that its transportation department was trying to minimize the impact of the change and ensure no group of students is disproportionately affected. 

"CCRCE has been experiencing a driver shortage over the past few months similar to other industries feeling labour shortages, compounded by the impacts of the pandemic," the email said. 

"We are actively recruiting for bus drivers, in addition to other positions for a range of skill sets."

Parents have questions

The last-minute notice and the lack of details is leaving some parents with questions.

Angela Osborne lives in Lantz and has four children attending three different schools. 

Angela Osborne said two of her four children will be directly affected by the changes. (Sadie Osborne)

She said two of her children, one in pre-primary and the other in Grade 2, attend Maple Ridge Elementary. She said they will be directly affected by the schedule change.

If she has to drive them to school, Osborne said, an older child attending Riverside Education Centre will probably end up missing her bus.

She said she was surprised when she got the notice. She said it was understandable if no one was available to drive the bus.

"Everybody's scared of COVID," Osborne said. "I'm assuming that's why there's nobody that wants to drive the bus." 

Notice unclear

She said it is unclear from the notice if the later pickup in the morning also means the children will be coming home 90 minutes later.

According to Osborne, she has to be outside when the bus arrives with her daughter from pre-primary school or the driver will not let her off. That means she needs to know when the bus will arrive in the afternoon.

She is fearful her daughter in Grade 2 will miss school work and some extra help she receives because of the change in times.

Brett Garden has children ages nine and seven at Elmsdale District School. He said Friday's notice made planning difficult.

Brett Garden and his family. (Meghan Isenor )

Garden said he has a lot of concerns. He said there is no indication when the bus driver position will be filled. 

He said the memo he saw said that children would be left at school 90 minutes after classes ended, but there was no indication about what resources would be used for supervision during that time. 

"The importance of kids being in school is one thing and I appreciate [that] they're going back," Garden said. "But it's another thing to make sure their safety and well-being is also at a high regard."

With files from Richard Woodbury

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