Edmonton Catholic Schools cancels routes with transport company after kids stuck on bus

Edmonton school board cancels 2 routes after bus delays
WATCH ABOVE: Dozens of Edmonton students were stuck on a bus for hours after their first day of school. As Sarah Kraus reports, the situation caused the board to cancel some routes with the transport company.

For dozens of Edmonton parents, their child’s first day of school turned into a nightmare when the bus was late dropping kids back home and they couldn’t locate it.

The Edmonton Catholic School District (ECSD) said one driver with Stock Transportation didn’t show up on Monday so another driver was left with all the kids and two routes, leading to huge delays. The ECSD said it was not notified about the change.

In light of the incident, the district cancelled two routes with Stock Transportation.

WATCH: Hundreds of parents west of Edmonton frustrated with school bus issues

Four-year-old Carson finished his first day just before 3 p.m. He was supposed to be bussed to daycare shortly after but he didn’t arrive.

“I went into panic mode,” his mother Catherine Shepard said. “It was pure, sheer horror for me. I made a lot of calls, lots of tears.

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“I was just feeling helpless and didn’t know what to do.”

Carson was one of 80 students from Frère Antoine and John Paul 1 schools who ended up experiencing major delays on the bus.

READ MORE: Edmonton police urge drivers to slow down as kids head back to school

“We started receiving calls from parents that their children weren’t getting home,” ECSD Asst. Supt. John Fiacco told Global News on Tuesday.

“We get on the phone with the carrier and we couldn’t get through. It took about an hour to get through to the carrier.”

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When they finally got through, Fiacco said school officials told the bus company to return the bus to the school where staff were waiting. Their parents were contacted and asked to pick them up.

“Frère Antoine, they were so supportive and all of them stayed on site until all the kids were home,” Shepard said. “They took care of our kids.”

Catherine Shepard was distraught when her four-year-old son’s bus didn’t arrive at daycare after his first day of kindergarten on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018.
Catherine Shepard was distraught when her four-year-old son’s bus didn’t arrive at daycare after his first day of kindergarten on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018. Sarah Kraus, Global News

The children were stuck on the bus for more than three hours in total. Carson didn’t get home until 7 p.m.

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“I was super hungry,” he said.

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In a letter to parents, Fiacco explained: “The carriers are reporting unexpected staffing shortages and some drivers have not shown up for work. This causes a ripple effect throughout the district as routes get doubled up and unplanned changes are made.

“Many of these route adjustments are not communicated to our transportation department which creates an undesirable scenario for everyone affected. The result is an unacceptable ride time length and unnecessary hardship on our children.”

READ MORE: ‘It was a hot mess’: Bedford parents outraged after students left stranded at school

He said ECSD discontinued its agreement with Stock Transportation and a new bus company would take over the two routes starting Sept. 26.

“There’s no excuse for it,” Fiacco added. “We worked with them, we expected changes and those changes didn’t happen.

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“It’s very disconcerting for me as an educator and more so as a parent… That’s totally unacceptable and we cannot support that type of service.”

Shepard is grateful for the swift action.

“Mistakes happen but as long as there’s a solution and things being worked on, I can’t ask more much more. It won’t happen again,” she said.

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The Edmonton Public School Board said it has also been having issues with Stock Transportation on five of its routes. However, EPSB will continue trying to work with the company.

In a statement sent to Global News Tuesday evening, Stock Transportation said:

“We apologize to the students and parents for the bussing issues that occurred… We have addressed the problem to ensure it does not happen again,” CEO Terri Lowe said.