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As many as 9,000 Ottawa students affected by bus driver shortage this fall

Ottawa’s English language public and catholic school boards are warning families that there could be some disruptions to school bus transportation this fall.

In emails, both the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) and the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) said the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority (OSTA) negotiated contracts with nine of 10 bus companies serving Ottawa schools.

“We are reaching out to inform you that we were not able to successfully renew the contract for service provided to some West End schools in both Boards,” the email says. “This may affect your child’s transportation routes. However, these changes do not affect students who take OC Transpo in the West End. OSTA is currently collaborating with other bus operators to try and come up with viable solutions.”

OSTA was not available for an interview Monday, but told CTV News Ottawa on Tuesday that it is short 130 drivers.

“That’s a result of over 300 runs that will be on long term cancellation. That doesn’t even include the short term cancellations for any last minute book offs or people that don’t show up,” said OSTA chief administrative officer Vicky Kyriaco. “It is going to be a bumpy start. It does affect approximately 9,000 students.”

Kyriaco says OSTA will be handing out single-ride vouchers to families who do not have transportation within the urban transportation area so that and the parents can ride OC Transpo to school and back.

The school boards say there remains a shortage of school bus drivers and the loss of one bus company that used to serve 36 bus routes will create additional challenges.

“While OSTA has successfully secured transportation for most students in the Ottawa area, this news is challenging and frustrating for families who must now find ways to transport their children to school. We will continue to work with OSTA to find alternate solutions,” the school boards said.

OSTA will open its parent portal on Wednesday.

Classes resume for students in the OCDSB and the OCSB on Sept. 5.

“It’s very very stressful for sure because we really don’t know what we’re going to do,” said local mom Katya Vukic. “That’s why probably we haven’t gotten the email letting us know which bus they’re going in.”

Vukic has two kids, one in middle school and one in elementary school. She says not knowing how they will get to school is challenging for the whole family.

“We need to get to work. Our kids need to get on the school bus. We’re just waiting. We’re waiting but this is a big stress for all of us.”

There has been no word from Ottawa’s two French language school boards about possible school bus disruptions. Classes resume Tuesday in both the French public and catholic school boards.

–With files from CTV News Ottawa’s Dave Charbonneau.

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