Hamilton school boards launch study to ‘mitigate’ school bus driver shortage

Both Hamilton's public school boards are looking at changing bell times to compensate for bus driver shortages.
Both Hamilton's public school boards are looking at changing bell times to compensate for bus driver shortages. Adam MacVicar / Global News

Both of Hamilton’s school boards will team up to study if staggering school times could help mitigate the ongoing shortage of school bus drivers.

Combined, the two services say they’re 10 drivers short for 513 routes serving the entire consortium.

“The school bus driver shortage is an ongoing issue that impacts students and families not only in Hamilton but across Ontario,” said Alex Johnstone, Chair of HWDSB in a statement on Wednesday.

READ MORE: Hamilton bus drivers reject city’s latest contract offer, set up potential strike

“After seeing the productive results at neighbouring boards, we are confident that undertaking a bell time study will mitigate the shortages we continue to face,”

In a joint release on Wednesday, the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) and the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board (HWCDSB) revealed they’re undertaking a review of all school bell times with the Hamilton-Wentworth Student Transportation System (HWSTS) for the 2020-21 school year.

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The hope is to reduce costs and create more efficient routes.

“The study will examine the current bus routing system and school bell times with the goal of reducing costs through greater routing efficiencies while maintaining a safe and effective school transportation system,” said Patrick J. Daly, Chair of the HWCDSB.

Daly also revealed that the two boards are working on other “efficiencies” as well to prepare for likely cost increases when the agreements with both boards’ current bus provider expires in August 2021.

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HWDSB spokesperson Shawn McKillop told Global News that neither school board has a ballpark dollar figure for what they hope to save based on the study. He also said the Doug Ford government is currently topping up bus funding for the region.

“Transportation funding increased this year to help stabilize funding to boards while the ministry of education undertakes a review of the students’ transportation funding formula,” said McKillop, “in order to achieve a more efficient and accountable student transportation system in Ontario.”

The report is expected early in 2020 and will be shared with the HWSTS governance committee.

Ontario university students hold 1-day strike
Ontario university students hold 1-day strike