Halifax parents hoping school buses run smoother after bumpy first week
Published Sunday, September 13, 2020 6:03PM ADT Last Updated Sunday, September 13, 2020 6:34PM ADT
HALIFAX -- Parents in the Halifax area are hoping buses run a little smoother, after the first week was a bit of a bumpy ride.
On the first day back to school, Brayden Lambert waited for his school bus for an hour and a half, but it never came.
His mother Dianne had to leave work to shuttle her son and his friends home.
“It’s frustrating because I didn’t understand why the school wouldn’t call us,” says Lambert.
Typically, bus drivers contact the dispatch if there’s a problem, and the dispatch relays the message to families.
“That didn’t work the way it needed to work last week, and it didn’t work the way we or families expect it to work, so there’s been work happening over the weekend around communication,” says Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE) spokesperson Doug Hadley.
HRCE says school bus companies are also facing a driver shortage.
According to Hadley, several drivers who were supposed to hop in the seat backed out just before Labour Day.
“They’ve had lots of applicants over the last few days, and those take a bit of time from the time they apply, to the time they’re certified with a license,” says Hadley.
“We lost a lot of bus drivers over COVID-19 because they were vulnerable and didn’t want to come back,” adds bus driver Linda Swansburg.
Swansburg has been driving school buses for five years. She says her first week back went smoothly, and credits her company and students.
But Swansburg says physical distancing is impossible onboard, and suggests that school bus companies should offer better incentives to attract new drivers.
“A pension would be great, but a minimum of five, six hours a day,” says Swansburg. “Put some incentives there and they’ll get some good drivers and they’ll stay here.”
The Nova Scotia Teachers Union raised a lot of alarm bells before school began. The NSTU President says that while teachers made it through week one, the model is not sustainable.
“Some teachers are spending two extra hours at school because buses are that late,” says Paul Wozney.
As for Dianne Lambert, she doesn’t expect buses to be on time everyday, she just wants to know what’s going on.
“I hope they work on the communication piece. That’s really important,” says Lambert.
The HRCE has hired three service providers this year, after cancelling their contract with Stock Transporation last year.
Southland Transportation, one of three bus companies used by the HRCE, previously told CTV News that the shortage of bus drivers has been brought on by delays in the training and licensing program.