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Hundreds of Abbotsford students being left behind daily by school bus driver shortage

School board to look at staff report that outlines how many routes and students affected this year
School bus drivers are in demand across the country, and that is being felt in Abbotsford where cancellations were common in the fall. (File photo)

Almost every school day, hundreds of Abbotsford students are being left without their planned bus pick ups.

The issue came to light after two different families spoke publicly to the Abbotsford board of education — one in December and one in January. This week, the board will hear a report from district staff on what has been happening, why, and how it’s being addressed.

As staff noted a previous board meeting, the issue comes down to a lack of drivers along with “significant sick leaves.” There has also been an increased number of drivers on long-term absences, the new report states.

That report includes a list of days with missed bus routes, and the number of students affected each day. Most of the issues pertain to a small number of routes repeatedly, affecting the same students repeatedly.

In December, for example, there were bus routes missed on 12 of the 17 school days. The worst days were Dec. 9, 12 and 13, which affected 538, 505 and 516 respectively. There were five routes missed on two of the days, and six on the third day. There was no snow or rain that day, and temperatures hovered around zero.

Things improved a bit on Dec. 14, with just 225 students without a bus over three routes. But things worsened again the following day with four routes down and 425 students affected. Those were different routes than the previous days, with little exception.

The issues have carried over into the new year, too. In January, there were 21 school days, with 18 days affected by lack of bus drivers. 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.

The average number of students missed on a day in January was 157.

The transportation department has 47 regular bus driver positions which includes five floater positions and four bus driver/maintenance positions. Two of those positions are currently unfilled and are hired internally. There are also three casual bus drivers in the system.

The staff report acknowledges that there are negative impacts when a route is cancelled. Parents have complained that the notices about the cancellations are coming in the morning, sometimes only an hour or so before bus pick up. In that case, many parents have already left for work, leaving a child alone at a bus stop without knowing the bus won’t come, or at home for the day.

The report says the district has begun combining routes without drivers into existing routes. They also say they’ve started sending out missed route notices the night before, if a driver absence is “imminent.”

On the last day listed on the report, Feb. 3, three routes were missed and 315 students were affected.

A job posting was listed on the Make a Future website on Jan. 30 for “Bus Drivers - floaters. ” The listed rate of pay is $25.81, and benefits include extended health care, pension, and more. Drivers must have a minimum of Grade 12 education, completion of a school district bus driver pre-employment training program and road test, a valid Class 2 licence with air, related driving experience, a proven ability to manage all students and work well with others, and a clean criminal record.

The board will receive this report at their Feb. 14 meeting, which is available to attend in person or to watch online.

READ MORE: Last-minute school bus cancellations have Abbotsford parents fuming


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Jessica Peters

About the Author: Jessica Peters

I began my career in 1999, covering communities across the Fraser Valley ever since.
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