School bus routes cancelled in Waterloo Region due to COVID-19 staffing shortages

Student Transportation Services of Waterloo Region (STSWR) says some bus routes have been cancelled for a short period of time due to staffing issues.

In an update on Monday morning, STSWR said they're "experiencing an increase in driver absences due to COVID-19 isolation."

The update said more than 90 per cent of routes are operating normally, but others are experiencing delays of more than 50 minutes.

Routes will be cancelled if STSWR isn’t able to cover driver absences.

A spokesperson for STSWR said, as of Friday, there were 22 drivers in isolation.

The spokesperson said six routes will be impacted as of Tuesday, out of 500 across the region. There are about 120 students on each route.

Both the Waterloo Region District School Board and the Waterloo Catholic District School Board will be affected.

The update said the temporary measures will be in effect from Jan. 25 to Feb. 18.

“We’re still covering a large number of routes with replacements and moving things around,” said Benoit Bourgault, the general manager of STSWR

“Some are returning on Wednesday. Some are returning on Friday. Others it will be early next week,” Bourgault said.

STSWR said the shortage is the worst it has been since the pandemic started.

“If you show symptoms today, if you have a runny nose, you can’t go to work. Last year we all went to work,” said Bourgault.

“I am so confused. I have no idea and I am so frustrated,” said Sonika Mandal, a parent of three children in Kitchener who go to two different schools.

Mandal said she's still waiting to find out if their busses will be impacted.

“My husband goes at 8; school starts after 8. So, I have no idea what we're going to do,” said Mandal.

STSWR asked parents to check route statuses online as their website is updated every afternoon by 4:30 p.m.

“We are minimizing the impact it as we know it is a very important service to families,” said Bourgault.

Families affected by a route cancellation will be contacted. Students can participate in online school those days or find alternative transportation for the five- to 10-day transportation cancellation period.

According to the WCDSB, students who aren’t able to come to school because of a cancelled bus route will be marked as an "excused absence."

"Staffing shortages in all sectors have been a hallmark of the omicron wave, as we see a higher prevalence of cases and of those who have to isolate," a statement from Director of Education Loretta Notten said. "WCDSB sincerely regrets that these staffing challenges have also impacted our school bus drivers, but we hope our community understands that the disruptions will be short lived and will support the health and safety of all. We are pleased that the greater majority of our bus routes remain operational and we are hopeful that any one student or family should not be impacted more than once due to bussing considerations. We hope that some students will be able to arrive without bussing but we are pleased that students can keep up with their learning by accessing their online classroom site."

Any cancellations will be posted on STSWR's website.

‼️Important Update‼️ Due to increased driver absences, @STSWR is anticipating the need to cancel some routes for a short period of time when driver absences cannot be covered, beginning on Tuesday, January 25. Details on their website: https://t.co/b8fdyejbiS https://t.co/ZY22Bxq4bL

— Waterloo Region DSB (@wrdsb) January 24, 2022