Southwestern Ontario Student Transportation Services (STS) says student riders will have to be registered ahead of the upcoming school year as the transportation consortium prepares routes for September.
The local STS says provincial government guidelines on physical distancing on school buses in an effort to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus will result in a 60 per cent reduction in capacity throughout its transportation system. The Southwestern Ontario STS serves students in the Thames Valley District School Board and London District Catholic School Board.
As a result of the distancing measures, and in an effort to support contact tracing, students will be assigned to buses “based on registration only.”
“As students return to school, every seat on the bus is vital,” the Southwestern Ontario STS said in a statement dated July 16.
“Some families will choose not to use bus service, so if they do not register, STS can make sure that seat is available for a student with no other way to get to school.”
The registration does not apply to students who use specialized transportation services as that process has already been completed.
The local STS says it will email instructions to families of students who are already registered for school in September and are eligible for bus service starting July 20.
After July 29, registration will be available online for those who have not yet been contacted but are still eligible. Registration will close Aug. 14.
Final transportation arrangements are expected to be available in the Parent Portal online in “late August.”
For those without internet access, a registration hotline will be available starting next week.
“Exactly what school will look like in September is still unknown. By implementing the bus registration system now, we can be more effective while planning to restart service,” said chief administrative officer Maureen Cosyn Heath.
“With physical distancing restrictions in place, we must use each seat intentionally to serve families who are transportation-dependent.”
Last Friday, the local STS announced that routes are being planned for two transportation scenarios.
“In a normal year, STS plans for September from early April until the end of July. Routes are reviewed to alter bus stop locations based on graduating and incoming students, program, and boundary changes. The routes are typically released to the contractors by the end of July,” a statement read.
“The balance of the summer is spent dealing with last-minute registrations and address changes that were not received by the end of June and handling thousands of inquiries. This year is very different.”
Of the two scenarios, one is based on a “business as usual” model while the other is based on if schools go ahead with a hybrid learning model, “where students are broken into cohorts and attend school on alternating days and with a reduced number of students on each vehicle.”
The local STS says bus routes and school bus stop locations are expected to change and that it’s “committed to ongoing communications with families” and will be posting weekly updates online.