Hamilton’s school boards will cancel bus routes on a rotating basis to account for a critical shortage of drivers this semester.
In a memo sent to families Wednesday afternoon, the boards said they would begin “planned rotations of cancelled bus routes” beginning Sept. 28 to offset the ongoing cancellations faced by families whose children are supposed to ride buses to and from school along routes operated by Caledonia Transportation.
There were 14 Caledonia Transportation routes cancelled on Wednesday, with dozens of routes from other operators showing delays — some of more than 60 minutes.
“We understand that this will cause considerable inconvenience and disruption to families at different points in the route rotations,” said Pat Daly, chair of Hamilton’s Catholic board.
“As much as we regret having to cancel any of our routes, this measure is necessary to assure a higher level of service, albeit on a rotating basis.”
The boards have struggled significantly to attract drivers as fears of COVID-19 spreading within the vehicles have dissuaded potential workers from getting behind the wheel.
While all students are required to wear masks on buses and drivers are tasked with cleaning the vehicles three times a day, many buses are expected to be packed with students unable to maintain physical distance from their peers.
Hamilton’s boards announced earlier in September that they need between 59 and 67 more drivers to take students to school and reduce serious delays and cancellations among several transportation routes across the city.
The boards say they’re continuing to offer driver incentives and develop recruitment programs.
“This is our regrettable reality this year, and we apologize to all our impacted families,” said Alex Johnstone, chair of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB).
“We foresaw a situation like this happening, and even with our increased funding to transportation, we need the support of the provincial government. This is an issue that I have been, and continue to raise, with the Ministry of Education since July.”
The boards say they will share a cancellation schedule with families later this week.
Jacob Lorinc’s reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. The funding allows him to report on stories about education.