School bus driver shortages aren’t impacting the Sooke School District like other districts in the province or like in previous years.
Route 20 – which serves Savory and Crystal View elementary schools in Langford and John Stubbs Memorial in Colwood – was cancelled on Wednesday (Feb. 15) after a driver came down with illness and there was no on-call driver to cover for them, an issue the district is grappling with, according to Kristen McGillivray, spokesperson for SD62.
“We are not short of regular drivers for our routes, however, we do require more on-call drivers to be able to cover for illness, appointments or other events that staff need to take time off for. It can be more challenging to find on-call bus drivers as it is part-time, split-shift positions. It also requires a Class 2 license, and there is no training offered locally.”
On Wednesday there was a technical glitch that prevented the school district’s notification system from warning parents about the cancellation. McGillivray said the district is updating its procedures so parents are notified in other ways.
McGillivray added the district is sponsoring a driver to become certified in training Class 5 drivers to help them obtain their Class 2 license – the license required to drive a school bus.
Overall, throughout the month of February, SD62’s transportation department cancelled a daily route on four different occasions due to staff shortages, and not a single time in January.
Around this time last year, the position was more tenuous. Speaking at a press conference in January 2022, SD62 board chairperson Ravi Parmar said the school district’s burgeoning student population combined with a lack of employees, meant losing a couple of bus drivers “could have a devastating impact.”
Other school districts in B.C. are dealing with driver shortages. Abbotsford’s school district is seeing hundreds of students left behind daily, with the average being 157 in January.
In January, there were 21 school days, with 18 days affected by a lack of bus drivers in Abbotsford. The most affected days of that month were Jan. 20 and 23, with three routes missed each day and 369 and 372 students affected respectively.
-With files from Jessica Peters