The Quebec government has reached a long-awaited deal with school bus operators in Montreal and the surrounding areas — but the Lester B. Pearson School Board (LBPSB) says not all companies have accepted the offer.
The school board issued a statement late Friday afternoon to warn parents that service may not be restored by the first day of school next week.
“Despite announcements by the Quebec government regarding an agreement with the different school bus carriers, not all companies that provide transportation for schools across Quebec have accepted the government offer. This includes the companies that normally service LBPSB schools,” the statement reads.
“As a result we are informing you that at this moment, we cannot guarantee school bus transportation when classes resume at Lester B. Pearson School Board schools on Tuesday Aug. 30. Until further notice, parents and guardians who rely on bus transportation must find alternative solutions in terms of dropping off and picking their children up from school.”
There are contingency measures in place, according to the LBPSB. They include extending supervision hours for elementary students and opening buildings early for secondary students.
The move comes after the province’s education ministry announced that an agreement in principle was struck Thursday night — just in time for back to school.
In a statement issued early Friday, the province’s Education Ministry said the deal with the Fédération des transporteurs par autobus now means that school transportation “must be provided” from the start of the school year across the province.
“It is a real relief to confirm that our students and their parents will be able to benefit from school transport,” Education Minister Jean-François Roberge said.
Andrew Jones, president of Transport Scolaire Élite and Autobus Beaconsfield, spoke to Global News as contract negotiations were being settled Thursday.
He said the new agreement makes sense for the parties involved and that both sides made compromises. The main sticking points have been the salaries of bus drivers, as well as the cost of maintenance and fuel.
“What we really wanted and needed was some sort of recognition on the government’s part that operating in and around Montreal comes with added costs,” Jones said. “Those have gone up exponentially in the last five years.”
The Centre de services scolaire de Montréal, a French-language school service centre, said some students were still without any ride Friday. The director general confirmed that the ongoing negotiations left about 1,500 students in the lurch.
— with files from Global News’ Aalia Adam and Brayden Jagger Haines