March 28, 2019 12:15 pm

Hamilton school boards review changes to bell times as transportation costs expected to rise

Another day begins on the yellow bus, as children peer through fogged-over windows on their way to school.


With transportation budgets expected to increase, Hamilton’s public and Catholic school boards are studying whether they should change bell times.

Bus company contracts with the Hamilton boards are set to expire in 2021 and officials are looking at the multi-million-dollar cost increase for neighbouring school boards and working on contingency plans.

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“Based on what we have seen happen with other consortia, we know that our costs are going to go up dramatically.”

Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board chairperson Patrick Daly noted up to a 25 per cent rise in costs for some boards.

Prior to a provincial change in legislation in 2016, school boards directly negotiated transportation contracts with local providers. Boards are now required to use a more costly Request for Proposal (RFP) model intended to encourage an open bidding process.

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The escalation in cost can be attributed to the rise in Ontario minimum wage, inflation, and various maintenance costs, as well as the ongoing shortage of drivers.

“There’s a real bus driver shortage in a number of places throughout the province,” Daly told 900 CHML’s Bill Kelly Show. “We have to find additional creative ways to reduce a number of [bus] routes.”

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Any changes to school start and end times can be done locally without permission from the Ontario Ministry of Education.

While changes have been made to individual jurisdictions within the Hamilton boards, Daly added that changing the times throughout the entire system has not been done.

“It’s something that we’re looking at right now.”

The Hamilton school boards acknowledged the pressure on caregivers whose schedules will be affected by any changes to bell times, stating that no changes will be made until they consult with parents, students and school staff.

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