Student ridership on school buses sees significant decline, as drivers quit over COVID-19 concerns
BusKids says two drivers quit just this past weekend over COVID-19 concerns
The number of Windsor-Essex students riding the school bus has decreased by about 33 per cent, compared to last year.
According to BusKids which oversees the region's student transportation services, a little more than 31,000 students boarded the school bus last year. This year, that number has declined to about 20,800.
It's not clear how much of that decline is attributed to students enrolling in online learning compared to those attending in-person classes but who might have an alternative way of getting to school.
Students in Grade 4 or higher are required to wear a mask on board the school bus. But masks are only encouraged for students in lower grade levels — and that has some bus drivers leaving their jobs altogether.
"We've had bus drivers quit. We just had two more on the weekend," said BusKids manager Gabrielle McMillan. "That would've left two open routes but we are able to redo a lot of the routes."
That rerouting has meant there is no shortage of bus drivers in Windsor-Essex to cover all routes in the region, at least for now, she added.
A majority of them are retirees and are at a higher risk. I think they started last week and gave it a try — but they see some of the kids that are younger don't have to have masks and they get very uncomfortable.- BusKids manager Gabrielle McMillan on the loss of drivers due to COVID-19
"We are able to ... put kids on different buses. So we ended up being able to still fill all our routes," said McMillan. "Right now, we're not short any routes. But we've lost quite a few drivers."
"A majority of them are retirees and are at a higher risk. I think they started last week and gave it a try — but they see some of the kids that are younger don't have to have masks and they get very uncomfortable."
According to BusKids, about 50 drivers from the region's four main operators have walked away from the job since July. Of that, 10 resignations were submitted since schools welcomed back students last week.