A parent in Stillwater Lake, N.S., says something needs to change after his three kids were dropped off at a bus stop half a kilometre away for the past two days in a row.
Tim Elms has eight-year-old twins as well as a 10-year-old who attend Tantallon Senior Elementary School. On Monday afternoon, when he went to pick his children up at the bus stop, they didn’t arrive.
“We waited for about an hour, an hour and 15 minutes,” said Elms. “We get that there’s growing pains, however this one started to be a bit more concerning when the second bus came through afterwards.”
Once that second bus came and went, he noticed his children along with other students walking along a side road.
“They had to walk about half a kilometre from the bus stop where the bus driver had passed by twice.”
Elms said he tried contacting the Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE) but didn’t receive a response.
“It’s just a concern when our kids are getting dropped off in the middle of nowhere, far away from their homes,” he said.
Late or non-arriving school buses have plagued the reopening of schools in the Halifax Regional Municipality. During the first three days of school, dozens of late buses could be seen on the HRCE’s website, some arriving an hour after their expected time.
It’s something Kate Nephew of Bedford has been dealing with for the past week. Her children attend Rocky Lake Elementary School.
She says during the first three days of school, the bus didn’t show up at the elementary school.
“There were no notifications, nothing coming to say the bus wasn’t showing up,” she said. “In the past, we usually get an email notification that will say the bus is running late.”
Then, Nephew said, the school bus didn’t show up Monday morning, resulting in her daughter being an hour late for classes.
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“It’s a very stressful feeling to not know whether or not the bus is going to arrive at the school, right? So it’s been hard,” she said.
The delays are also impacting high school students. Coady Monk, a Grade 12 student at Charles P. Allen High School, says his bus was 20 minutes late Tuesday morning.
“School staff did really well, and I think if there were more school buses on the streets it would smooth things over,” said Monk.
The Department of Education says the recent spike in bus drivers retiring has result in many of the delays.
“We are in the process of hiring new bus drivers,” said Education Minister Zach Churchill. “We’ve hired 10 out of 30 for those positions, and as the hiring happens you’ll see improvements in timing with our buses.”
This week, Churchill says, there have been nine buses that have been “substantially late” and says he is hoping to see improvements as more hires are made.
He says the cohort of bus drivers in Dartmouth, Sackville and Kingswood have been hardest hit by the retirements.
“There’s always challenges at the beginning of the year with bus routes as our drivers and system figure out what the routes are,” he said. “This year we hit with the 30 retirees, so we’re working very hard to ensure the hiring of new bus drivers is happening as quickly as possible.”
Tim Elms says it’s important for that to happen, as he can’t have his children walking that far after school every day.
“I think given more time we’ll probably work through the kinks, but it’s been a week and at this point some of kinks are fairly large.”