Rotating cancellations due to school bus driver shortage

By Jenn Watt

A province-wide school bus driver shortage is being felt in Haliburton County, with parents being asked to find other ways for their children to get to school when drivers aren’t available.

On Oct. 2, Trillium Lakelands District School Board advised parents and guardians to be aware of the potential that a bus may not be carrying out some routes.
“Due to the current shortage of qualified school bus drivers, any day we could be without a driver for your child’s bus route. It is important to make alternate transportation arrangements to get your child to and from school in the event of a cancellation,” a message posted to the school board’s Facebook page reads.

Superintendent of business Tim Ellis has previously discussed bus driver shortages at board of trustees meetings, pointing out that many bus drivers are part of an older age demographic, one that would be at higher risk if contracting the novel coronavirus. This may be leading some drivers to choose not to work during the pandemic.

Although earlier in the school year, issues with bus routes had mostly been in the Muskoka region, TLDSB communications officer Sinead Fegan confirmed that the issue is throughout the board.
“Yes, Haliburton has been experiencing shortages recently,” she said in an email to the Times. “The board has been doing daily cancellations. These cancellations are being done on a rotating basis to minimize the time that students are without transportation into our schools. Please note, cancellations are done as a last resort.”

Class restructuring
Some students at Archie Stouffer Elementary School – and other schools within the board – will be changing classrooms and in some cases teachers, as the board makes adjustments based on enrolment at physical schools and in virtual school.

A letter sent home to students at ASES on Oct. 2 reads, in part: “As class numbers are now settling the difficult decision about having to decrease staff at physical schools to support the increased number of students participating in the Learn@Home School has necessitated a reduction of one classroom at Archie Stouffer Elementary School.”
Similar letters went out elsewhere, with news website Kawartha411 quoting a nearly identical phrase from a message sent out by the principal of Dunsford District Elementary School.
Fegan told the Times that adjustment to staffing was not happening at all schools, only those where they are needed.
“Due to the reorganization, some cohorts will be changing in some classes,” she said.

At ASES, restructuring will take place in the primary classes, with class sizes aligning with Ministry of Education guidelines. Those parents and guardians whose children will be affected will be contacted directly, the letter says. The changes are to take place Oct. 13, following the Thanksgiving weekend.
Fegan said she didn’t know if further reorganization would be needed in the future.
“We are not sure if this will be the last time a reorganization is required. We are working to be responsive to family requests for switching between online learning and in school learning,” she said.