School Bus Route Cancellations Disrupt City’s Back-To-School Season Due to Driver Shortage


Despite the beckoning warmth of continued summer weather, the clarion call of the school bell has signaled the cessation of vacation for more than 110,000 students across the city. Schools are back in session, and while youngsters eagerly embrace a fresh academic year, a handful of parents face unexpected challenges brought by the abrupt cancellation of school bus routes due to the persistent driver shortage.

Eight-year-old Annabelle Chadwick-Clark bounds eagerly into the schoolyard, facing the second grade with unwavering anticipation. “I’m excited to meet new friends and see my teachers,” she declares, a testament to her readiness with her new pencil case, lunch box, backpack, and keychain.

Meanwhile, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, along with the Ottawa Catholic School Board – the city’s two-largest academic institutions – welcome students back into classrooms come Tuesday. The Ottawa Student Transportation Authority (OSTA), however, faces a different story. A crippling labor shortage and financial deficit forced the organization to scrap 36 bus routes, leaving an army of students without their customary journeys to school.

Benevolent alternatives have been proposed in the form of vouchers to facilitate OC Transpo use for several children, but regrettably, this solution remains far from universal. One such struggling parent is Hero Van Harten, who bemoans that 450 students, including her own 15-year-old son, have been affected by the lack of transportation from Stittsville to Richmond.

Van Harten expresses her frustration, noting that the situation feels untenable. The burden to secure emergency transportation for children, she argues, should not solely rest on the parents’ shoulders. Although some parents have the flexibility to make temporary arrangements, she notes, this evidently is not sustainable for an entire school year.

On a hopeful note, the OSTA has announced plans to thoroughly review the current schemes and reinstate necessary transportation for pupils. However, this hardly resolves the immediate issue, as Van Harten only became privy to the cancelled bus routes mere days prior to the school year commencement. With limited time to seek alternatives, she, like many others, found herself in a debilitatingly frantic situation.

Scrambling for solutions, Van Harten shares, “We have now arranged a carpool with four other families… we’re lucky. But I know there are lots of parents that haven’t been able to do that, and I’m not sure what’s next for them.”


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