Ombudsman launches investigation into Toronto school bus chaos (The Star)
By Evelyn Kwong, Staff Reporter
September 26, 2016
With a rising number of complaints, Ontario’s Ombudsman Paul Dubé announced Monday that his office would be looking into Toronto’s school bus woes.
Nearly a month into the school year, Dubé said his office continues to receive complaints from children and parents in Toronto scrambling over no-show buses.
“We continue to receive complaints from frustrated families who are experiencing chronic delays or are repeatedly forced to scramble to get children to school when their buses don’t show up,” Dubé said.
Both the Toronto District School Board and Toronto Catholic District School Board have been notified, and will be queried on whether the oversight of student transportation and the response to delays and disruptions were “adequate.”
“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,” Dubé said.
Toronto Student Transportation Group, an organization responsible for providing transportation for students in both boards, wrote on Sept. 13 that a “severe bus driver shortage” would continue to lead to school bus shortages and delays.
“We continue to work with our carriers on a daily basis to look for short and mid term solutions to minimize the impact as a result of the driver shortage,” they wrote on their Facebook page.
As of last Friday, the Toronto Catholic District School Board has made some progress on solving the issue. TCDSB spokesperson John Yan said that they’ve now matched all students to a bus route, but those routes are heavily modified due to the continued shortage of drivers.
(Students) may not get picked up at exactly the time they’re expecting, there could still be delays anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes,” said Yan.
The ombudsman’s office said it also received 49 complaints about busing problems at other school boards and will keep an eye on those while moving ahead with the Toronto-focused probe.
“We have had a few complaints about busing in other areas, and some indicating there is a broader problem with the school transportation procurement process across the province,” said Dubé.
The Ombudsman’s mandate was expanded to include oversight of Ontario school boards last year, and it already has received more than 800 complaints about them.