Buses may not return to school with Central Okanagan students on June 1, 2020. (File)

School buses could remain parked as Central Okanagan students return to class

SD23 staff has recommended the cancellation of transportation services for the remainder of the school year

As Central Okanagan students begin a partial return to classes on June 1, school buses may not be joining.

In a report headed to school board trustees on Wednesday (May 27), School District 23 staff has recommended the board cancel regular transportation services for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year. Staff said the suggestion comes on the heels of “numerous operational and safety factors as well as the part-time nature of in-school programming for the remainder of the school year.”

The district would, however, continue providing transportation for special needs students.

If the board adheres to that recommendation, staff also suggests that the transportation fee is cut by 30 per cent and the additional costs are refunded to parents.

All routes and service levels would have to be restructured, before June 1, if transportation services were to be offered by the district.

“Due to the interdependence of routes, in order to provide transportation to all students for the sixteen days, the district will be required to run all of its routes, which would remove all drivers from their current cleaning duties,” reads the report.

Currently, bus drivers are assisting schools by providing cleaning services — and with students returning to classes, the district said the need for those services will increase.

“The district could attempt to recruit replacements for the cleaning duties that the drivers are performing from its casual CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) workforce, but it is unlikely that it will be able to hire the level of additional staff required.”

The district’s bus drivers are also largely members of at-risk populations — with 47 out of the 87 regular drivers being 60 years or older and another 30 aged between 50 and 59 years old.

“Many drivers who are immune-compromised are currently performing duties where they are able to isolate and reduce contacts with others and may not be available for driving duties. It is unknown if the district will have sufficient drivers to cover all routes.”

Supervision of younger children would also impose further difficulty on bus drivers, said the district.

School District 22 in the North Okanagan cancelled its transportation services for similar reasons to those presented in the SD23 report.

Over 5,500 students were taking the bus to school in the Central Okanagan before the pandemic hit.

School board trustees will hear and vote on the matter on May 27.

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