The school buses were far from packed Tuesday morning in Simcoe County and Muskoka because of the new school year's staggered start. But it was still a nerve-racking day for many parents who sent their children on the bus.
There were 720 school buses on the roads across the region today, and students would have noticed several bus policy changes.
John Barbato, CEO and General Manager of the Simcoe County Student Transportation Consortium, said students have to self-assess before boarding the bus.
"The students in grades four to 12 must wear a mask. Our drivers are wearing protective equipment, including masks and face shields, and we have assigned seating this year for the students that they are to follow."
Assigning seats helps with contact tracing in the event of a COVID-19 case. Letters and numbers are written inside buses to make it easy for students to know where to sit, much like an airplane.
Bill Hamilton said he's been driving a school bus for years. "We have a spray bottle of sanitizer, and we use that to spray on all the bus controls and seats," Hamilton will have to sanitize at least twice a day.
Shannon Bellar was stunned this morning to find out her son could ride the bus, but her daughter could not. "They didn't have a seat assigned to her yet," the Barrie mom said. "The bus drivers aren't letting children on the bus without assigned seating. I was told it could be up to two weeks for my daughter to receive a seating plan or a seat on the bus."
The school bus consortium is aware of the issue and said it would investigate quickly as possible. Until the situation is resolved, Bellar said she's going to have to find a way to get her daughter to school.
The consortium will be running buses at full capacity this year, if necessary, which could mean up to 70 students at one time.