Ombudsman investigating recent school busing problems at TDSB and TCDSB (CTV News)
September 26, 2016
Ontario ombudsman Paul Dubé will probe the recent school busing problems at the city’s two primary boards, his office announced Monday.
Since the beginning of the school year, more than 1,000 children have been affected by erratic bus schedules resulting from a shortage of drivers. Many parents, who have been forced to find alternative transportation for their children as a result, said the school boards did not do enough to warn them of the impending shortage.
In response to a slew of complaints by families, Dubé announced that members of his staff would conduct a full assessment of the issue in order to determine whether a full investigation was needed.
In a news release Monday, Dubé concluded his office would launch a “systematic investigation” into both the Toronto District School Board and Toronto Catholic District School Board regarding student transportation.
“Our primary focus will be on what happened with these two boards, leading up to and during the present situation. We will look at what the boards knew about possible transportation problems, how they responded and, communicated with parents, and what can be done to prevent such problems in future,” he said in the release.
Both the TDSB and TCDSB have been informed of the investigation, which will be completed “as quickly as possible,” he said.
Dubé said his office continues to receive complaints from parents and families who are experiencing bus delays or transportation issues.
Though only a few of those complaints relate to other school boards, Dubé said his office will also monitor other districts during the investigation.
“As we determine what happened in Toronto, we will be able to evaluate whether it’s necessary to look at broader issues,” he said.
According to a TDSB spokesperson, the busing problem largely affects elementary students across 60 bus routes. They warned parents that morning and afternoon buses could be delayed as long as 30 to 60 minutes.
While responding to the busing issue earlier this month, Education Minister Mitzie Hunter said provincial funding for transportation at school boards has increased by 40 per cent since 2003.
She also said that the school boards are responsible for fixing the issue, not the province.
The TDSB and TCDSB released a joint statement Monday evening welcoming the investigation.
“The Toronto Catholic District School Board and Toronto District School Board welcome a report from the Ombudsman’s Office which, as expected, is now formally looking into the bus driver shortage experienced by the two boards,” the statement read. “As we’ve said from the beginning, we agree that a thorough review is necessary so that we can ensure it doesn’t happen again. That is why we will be cooperating fully in addition to conducting our own review of the situation.”