‘Fluid num­bers’ fuel fears of school bus driver woes

No short­ages so far, but Fri­day up­date may change sit­u­a­tion

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - CARMELA FRAGOMENI cfragomeni@thes­pec.com 905-526-3392 | @Car­matTheSpec

As stu­dents and par­ents pre­pare for the start of the school year, the pos­si­bil­ity of bus driver short­ages so far doesn’t ap­pear to be a prob­lem for Hamil­ton and Burlington.

But the sit­u­a­tion could change by the start of the school year.

Hamil­ton-Went­worth District School Board chair Todd White said there were no short­ages re­ported as of Wed­nes­day from the four com­pa­nies pro­vid­ing school bus trans­porta­tion to public and Catholic stu­dents in Hamil­ton.

“We have four op­er­a­tors (school bus com­pa­nies) … the four were re­port­ing no short­ages as of the end of last week,” he said.

But White said that could change by Fri­day, when he will re­ceive an up­date. If there are any reg­u­lar driver re­tire­ments, they will be known by then, he added. “We do ex­pect a drop-off.” Con­cern over short­ages this Septem­ber comes af­ter Hamil­ton lacked 18 driv­ers for routes in the 2016/17 school year.

The prob­lem was so bad in Toronto, it prompted On­tario’s om­buds­man to look into the mat­ter.

This year in Burlington, Hal­ton Stu­dent Trans­porta­tion Ser­vices are two driv­ers short so far.

But HTST gen­eral manager Karen Lacroix ex­pects those po­si­tions to be filled by the time school starts.

Her big­gest prob­lem is in Oakville, where she is cur­rently about 30 bus driv­ers short.

Lacroix hopes that num­ber will im­prove since there are two groups of new driv­ers un­der­go­ing train­ing.

One is ex­pected to be li­censed by the end of this week and the other by the first week of school.

“We don’t have a fi­nal num­ber yet, ” Lacroix said. “The bus com­pa­nies will be re­port­ing up to this Fri­day. The num­bers are fluid.”

Lacroix said the bus com­pa­nies also have sup­ply driv­ers, just as there are sup­ply teach­ers, to help out.

“There may be some de­lays, but not a sit­u­a­tion where the bus doesn’t show up or the route is can­celled,” she said.

In Hamil­ton and Burlington, par­ents can sign up to re­ceive email no­ti­fi­ca­tions or check the stu­dent trans­porta­tion web­sites for route de­lays dur­ing the first week of school.

See hamil­ton­school­bus.ca or hal­ton­bus.ca

We do ex­pect a drop-off. TODD WHITE HAMIL­TON-WENT­WORTH DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD CHAIR

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