The Ottawa Student Transportation Authority (OSTA) announced the unexpected leave of absence of its chief administrative officer and general manager. However, no reason was provided for the sudden absence, and the identity of the officer was not disclosed in the authority’s declaration.
In the interim, an operations manager has been appointed by OSTA’s board of directors to oversee daily duties. They have given assurance to all concerned parents that the staff is well-equipped to handle all responsibilities in the absence of the senior officer, promising continued reliability and efficiency.
This change in the administrative structure has arisen amidst an ongoing crisis for OSTA. The authority’s failure in arranging school bus transportation for many families at the start of this school year resulted in hardship and inconvenience.
Responding to this service lapse, the board of directors of OSTA extended its heartfelt apologies for the disruptions, especially to the rural communities who were worst affected. Their statement revealed the struggle to rectify driver shortages had been largely unsatisfactory.
Their statement read, “Over the past few weeks, the experiences of students and parents have been tarnished with frustration and inconvenience. This announcement marks an opportunity for us to mend ties and rebuild relationships with our community who depend on our services for consistent transport to school.”
At the start of this academic year, the authority fell short of bus drivers, leaving over 9,000 students across English public and catholic boards in Ottawa without transportation to school. This sparked frustration amongst parents, particularly those residing in rural areas, who were compelled to adapt their schedules to drive their kids to school daily.
During the summer, OSTA successfully negotiated contracts with only nine out of the ten companies providing school buses. This has resulted in a shortfall of over 100 drivers. Among the various adverse effects of these circumstances, bus drivers have faced mistreatment and abuse, prompting some to resign.
Last week, OSTA unveiled its plan to combat the driver shortage. The strategies encompass training new drivers, exploring coach buses for student transport, and considering alterations in school timings in coordination with the school boards to optimize student transportation. All measures aim to regain trust and ensure no recurrence of the current situation. The authority reiterated its commitment towards ensuring a smooth initiation into the new school year, undeterred by current challenges.