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‘Unprecedented’ school bus driver shortage behind five route suspensions: agency

School bus in Marysville, Ont. on Monday, Sept. 3, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Lars Hagberg. The Canadian Press/Lars Hagberg

The transportation agency that manages school bus services for Ottawa’s English schools has suspended five routes and tweaked a handful of others for the rest of this week because of an “unprecedented and unforeseen driver shortage.”

The Ottawa Student Transportation Authority (OSTA), however, has found coverage for all its routes as of March 4 and will have a “redesigned system” in place for Monday, according to the agency’s general manager Vicky Kyriaco.

READ MORE: School bus driver shortage could be looming for southwestern Ontario

In the meantime, OSTA says it’s calling every affected family and will “communicate next steps … with schools and parents throughout the week,” according to a notice on the agency’s website.

Full details on the five temporarily cancelled routes — four of which are morning runs — are available on OSTA’s website. The suspensions affect four schools: Knoxdale Public School, Manordale Public School, St. Monica Catholic School and Agincourt Public School.

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A handful of other school routes are being covered by other companies for the rest of this week. OSTA recommends parents and guardians contact those operators directly for “the most current information.”

Kyriaco said bus driver shortages have been a reoccurring issue for a number years. But in this recent case, she said the problem was exacerbated by one of OSTA’s smaller operators, which had a greater number of drivers leave around the same time.

READ MORE: Hamilton’s school bus driver shortage causes first-day hiccups

Kyriaco said the operator flew in drivers from other locations in Ontario but it advised OSTA late last week they couldn’t cover all their routes and “maintain safety aspects.”

“It was a tough decision to make [to suspend five routes] because we know that parents count on transportation for their kids so they can get to school and that they can get to work,” Kyriaco said in a phone interview. “But safety is our priority in this.”
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For the remainder of this week, Kyriaco said OSTA is redistributing kids across routes and having some high school students travel via OC Transpo to create capacity for elementary students on the school buses.

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