Coast Mountains School District 82 is dealing with a shortage of bus drivers, but some relief could be on the horizon.
The shortage is affecting the Terrace area of the school district. Secretary Treasurer Ginger Fuller said that the district was one driver short of the number it needs, and there are no spare drivers.
“This is absolutely new to this school year,” she said. “There are lots of other districts in the province that are having issues with busing, whether it’s with a contracted service or with in-house.”
CMSD82 contracts all of its transportation services to Diversified Transportation, which also provides services to School District 57 (Prince George), School District 93 (Francophone Education Authority) and Catholic Independent Schools of BC.
Fuller attributed the shortage to competition for drivers with the LNG Project in Kitimat, as well as COVID-19. Drivers that show any signs of illness are staying home, and Fuller said the fact that many drivers are older or retired is playing a role.
Earlier in the school year, it was possible to combine bus runs without overcrowding because there were fewer students attending class in-person. But with the colder winter weather and more students in class, that option is more difficult now.
Fuller said a recent driver illness forced the school district to think outside the box to make sure students from Rosswood made it to class. CMSD used a high school sports bus and a qualified on-call driver to cover the run until the regular driver could return to work, and had a bus on a nearby run pick up some additional students so the sports bus was not overcrowded.
“For us it wasn’t an option not to have kids not come to school,” she said. “We took it into our hands to make sure that there was transportation there, outside of our contract.”
There could be some relief in December, when another qualified driver is expected to start working. That would mean the school district would have exactly the number of drivers it needs, but still no backup in the event drivers are sick or cannot work.