Ottawa

Parents vent as kids left waiting for buses in extreme cold

Ottawa parents whose kids were left out in the extreme cold waiting for late buses Monday morning took to social media to vent their anger at the local school transportation authority.

School buses in Ottawa weren't cancelled Monday, but many were late

The extreme cold, not road conditions, is behind many of today's school bus delays. (Dave Gaudet/CBC)

Ottawa parents whose kids were left out in the extreme cold waiting for late buses Monday morning took to social media to vent their anger at the local school transportation authority.

Monday morning's wind chill made it feel around –40 in eastern Ontario, and there are extreme cold warnings across the entire region.

While many districts surrounding Ottawa deemed that too cold to run school buses, the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority (OSTA) did not. However, the routes serving English schools experienced major delays.

According to OSTA, nearly 100 buses were delayed anywhere between 10 minutes and, on one route, 60 minutes.

The delays angered some parents, who said it was dangerous to keep children waiting at the bus stop in such conditions.

OSTA blamed some of the delays not on the buses, which had been plugged in over the weekend in anticipation of the frigid temperatures, but on the drivers, some of whom had difficulty getting to their vehicles Monday.

"I think there's a certain degree of understanding that circumstances aren't normal today. Thinking that the entire system is going to run exactly as planned under these kinds of conditions would be unusual," said Vicky Kyriaco, general manager and CAO of OSTA, which provides transportation for 67,000 students. 

Kyriaco said OSTA has no specific temperature that triggers cancellations. Rather, the authority considers road conditions, visibility and precipitation.

Despite the frigid temperature, the roads in Ottawa seemed reasonably clear Monday morning, Kyriaco said.

Kyriaco said OSTA fielded calls from parents Monday, and is keeping track of which routes had issues with late buses. 

Making other arrangements

OSTA said it announced all delays as early as possible to give parents time to make other arrangements to get their kids to school.

"We are trying to balance the needs of a variety of households in the city, and always err on the side of caution when it refers to safety," she said. 

She pointed out that OC Transpo buses were running despite the extreme cold.

"If all those folks can take the bus and wait for the bus, then I think it's not unreasonable to be running yellow buses," Kyriaco said.

Elsewhere, school buses are not running today:

  • for the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) and the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO),
  • for the English public and Catholic schools in Renfrew County managed by the Renfrew County Joint Transportation Consortium,
  • for schools in the Kingston TriBoard area, and
  • for eastern Ontario's French schools — except those in Ottawa.

Schools are still open.

There are a few mechanical issues with buses serving the Western Québec School Board.

with files from Krystalle Ramlakhan