launch campaign to assist with bus driver recruitment, transportation options
Peel District School Board Trustees have launched a lobbying campaign to seek provincial funds to help mitigate ongoing bus delays caused by a shortage of qualified school bus drivers in the Greater Toronto Area. Trustees committed to the campaign at the Regular Meeting of the Board on Jan. 9, 2018, following over a year of significant bus delays at more than 50 Peel schools.
"Children and their families are waiting at the curbside or school entrances for extended periods of time for a service that they not only deserve, but require, in order to get to and from school each day," says Chair of the Board Janet McDougald in a letter to the Minister of Education. "This is not acceptable. The impact on schools, students and their families has been tremendous and cannot be sustained."
Continues McDougald, "Trustees have heard countless stories of parents missing work to drive their children to and from school, and school staff having to wait with students well beyond the end of the school day for their buses to arrive," says McDougald. "Most importantly, students are missing out on hours of key learning opportunities, all due to an issue they have no control over."
According to a report released by board staff and Student Transportation of Peel Region (STOPR), there is currently a shortfall of nearly 70 school bus drivers in Peel Region, which means that approximately 150 of the Peel board's daily bus runs do not have a regular driver, and have not since the early fall. As a result, each morning and afternoon, over 50 schools are faced with bus delays ranging from 20 minutes to over an hour.
Says McDougald, "It is our understanding that bus service providers continue to work to hire and train more drivers to fill their vacancies, and STOPR is working closely with these companies to adjust and consolidate routes; however, these efforts have not been able to resolve these ongoing delays. We aren't able to turn to other service providers to assist as they are also struggling to maintain a sufficient number of drivers to meet their own contractual requirements or they charge fees that well exceed the board's provincially allocated transportation budget."
Notes McDougald, "While we appreciate the recent ministry initiatives to help improve the issue, including a school bus driver retention program and engagement sessions to develop a new vision for student transportation in Ontario, these initiatives will not start to have an effect on bus driver retention until next school year."
For a solution in the meantime, the Board of Trustees is calling on impacted families, staff and community members to ask their local Members of Provincial Parliament to advocate for Peel students by urging the ministry to provide additional transportation funding to reduce bus delays this school year.
"We have exhausted our options, and now look to the province for support in the short-term by providing much needed funding to help with bus driver recruitment and to assist the board in exploring other transportation options for our students," says McDougald.
For more information and campaign resources, including template letters to MPPs, visit www.peelschools.org/stopthebusdelays
Media contact: Suzanne Nurse, Vice-Chair, Peel District School Board, [email protected], 905-495-3423
Reference: Kayla Tishcoff, Senior Communications Officer, [email protected], 905-890-1010 ext. 2239