Melissa Stoddart’s just moved. A new neighbourhood within Winnipeg’s Pembina Trails School Division means a new bus for her daughter, but it’s been a battle getting her application processed.
“I need busing now. I don’t have a car regularly. My husband has to take the car,” Stoddart told Global News on Friday.
She’s called and emailed the school division for weeks since applying in August, getting through once and receiving little information.
Stoddart’s been driving her daughter to and from school using a borrowed car, which interrupts her work day — and time is running out.
“I worry that come October when my parents require their vehicle back that, if I don’t have busing, like I said, I’m going to have to get on a bus with her, (and) take her to school,” she said.
School bus driver shortage threatens smooth return to learning for kids this fall.
Stoddart isn’t alone in her struggle with school transportation.
Pembina Trails announces cancelled and delayed routes on its Facebook page on a weekly basis.
“As is the case in school divisions across Canada, bus driver shortages are an ongoing challenge,” the school division’s superintendent Lisa Boles said in an emailed statement.
Boles says the division is working hard to recruit and retain new drivers.
“We offer to pay them while they train and to pay for their road test,” she continued.
“We fully understand that busing is a critically important issue for our families and their children, which is why we continue to work so hard on this topic.”
Most other Winnipeg school divisions along with some outside the city, including Seine River School Division, told Global News they’re actively hiring.
“It’s been challenging the last couple of years, making sure that we have sufficient staffing to be able to operate all of our bus routes on a daily basis,” Seine River School Division’s secretary treasurer Scott Carleton told Global News on Monday.
As of Monday, the school division just southeast of Winnipeg counted just enough bus drivers on its roster to cover 60 bus routes.
“We’re still pretty tight when somebody calls in sick,” Carleton said.
And split shifts and wages may not be enough to attract as many as before, he said.
Seine River has historically looked to hire farmers and retired Manitobans with more flexible schedules.
“But it seems like it’s getting more and more difficult to find those types of people who are interested,” Carleton said.
For Stoddart, she’s frustrated the lack of communication and organization will leave her in a bind, and stunned the driver shortage could be leading to shorter school days.
Sometimes her daughter’s classes begin late because all buses haven’t arrived on time.
“The school day’s getting shortened because the buses aren’t arriving,” she said.
“The transportation department has a lot of holes and problems.”
Bus driver shortage blamed for kids arriving late to class
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