A local school bus company says it has fired a driver who failed to make sure a young child was off the school bus before driving it back to the depot about 40 kilometres away.

The student was supposed to be dropped off at École élementaire Francojeunesse in Sandy Hill on Friday morning. Instead, the child remained on the bus as the driver took it all the way back to Clarence-Rockland.

Roxborough Bus Lines confirms to CTV News that the company was called just as school bus was arriving at the yard. They found the child at the back of the bus and took him back to the school in a minivan.

“At that time, the bus was just pulling back into our yard at our Rockland location, at which point one of our office members went out, met the driver, and we found the child siting mid to part-way back of the bus,” said Roxborough Bus Lines President Nick McRae. 

The company says the driver failed to follow a policy that requires a student check at the school, to ensure all kids were off the bus.

“This isn’t something you hear happening very often. Our drivers are held to the highest regard, they’re professionals and unfortunately, in this case, a human error came down,” said McRae.

This comes as thousands of families across Ottawa get ready to load their kids onto school buses during a tense back-to-school period.

Ontario school bus officials say COVID-19 protocols will be in place.

“The drivers will look different they’re going to be wearing masks and shields when they got off the bus, probably gloves, there’ll be hand sanitizer there, and weather permitting the windows will be open to allow for increased ventilation,” said Nancy Daigneault, Executive Director of School Bus Ontario.

Both the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority and the Consortium de transport scolaire d'Ottawa have posted a list of policies and procedures for drivers, students, and parents on their websites, including assigned seating, mask use, and protocols for the driver's use of personal protective equipment.

Some Ottawa students returned to class on Sept. 3 and 4, with more students gradually beginning their new school years starting on Tuesday.