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Provincial COVID Update – Lifting of Restrictions

Last Updated on: 10th March 2022, 04:50 pm

On March 9, 2022, the Ministry of Education announced that certain COVID-related instructions were to change as of March 21, 2022. OSTA remains committed to providing a safe environment while delivering transportation services for students. The Ministry of Education’s update is reflected in a number of areas below. We wish to highlight the following major changes:

  • Masks are no longer mandatory for any students on yellow bus, wheelchair bus or vans – Students using public transit may be required to continue wearing masks.
  • Seating plans and cohorting are no longer mandatory, however the driver may choose to continue with the seating plan to encourage safe riding behaviour.
  • Rapid antigen testing of unvaccinated individuals is no longer required on a regular basis, however rapid antigen tests will still be made available to symptomatic individuals until the end of this school year.
  • OSTA encourages drivers and students to continue using strategies to protect themselves from COVID, such as masking, good hand and airway hygiene, etc.

We would like to assure everyone that while some safety measures are now optional (at the discretion of the individual), other safety protocols will remain in place on vehicles.

What will continue:

  • Drivers and students are still required to self-screen before getting on the bus.
  • PPE will continue to be provided to drivers until the end of this school year.
  • Rapid Antigen Tests will continue to be provided to drivers. 
  • Enhanced cleaning twice a day will continue to occur on all vehicles

Please keep in mind that reducing COVID-19 risk of transmission is everyone’s responsibility. New Government guidelines state that if your child has COVID Symptoms, presume they are infected with the virus and self-isolate. Please do not send your child on the bus/van or to school. The provincial screening tool has been updated with new isolation requirements depending on vaccination status.

We continue to work with our Operators, OCDSB and OCSB, to ensure everyone has a safe ride to and from school. For a full list of safety recommendations on student transportation vehicles, please visit our Transportation during COVID-19 webpage.

For more information about the updated COVID-19 protocols: http://www.ottawaschoolbus.ca/covidprotocols/


Download the student safety infographic
Download the driver safety infographic

Parents'/Guardians' daily responsibility to assess their child’s health

Parents must assess their child’s health before sending them on the bus/van or dropping them off at school.  Please see the Government of Ontario’s updated school screening tool. For COVID-19 resources, please visit Public Health Ontario’s website.

Public Health Ontario Resource

School Screening Tool (Self-Assessment)

New Government guidelines state that if your child has COVID Symptoms, presume they are infected with the virus and self-isolate. Please do not send your child on the bus/van or to school.

Parents will be required to pick up their child at the bus stop or at the school immediately upon identification of a sick child.  Unsupervised sick students at the stop will be isolated on the vehicle upon boarding, to the extent possible.  The student will be required to wear a mask during the trip to school.

The Principal will determine if an identified student may return home on the bus/van, with proper precautions.

Preparing students for their trip to school *Updated
    • Respiratory and hand hygiene are critical mitigation strategies that limit the transmission of viruses. Students are encouraged to wash their hands thoroughly and/or use hand-sanitizer prior to going to the stop, and then sanitizing their hands again (using their hand-sanitizer) before boarding the bus/van.
    • Students from grades KG to 12 are no longer required to wear a mask. Masks, however, may be worn at the individual’s discretion.
    • Students riding on OC Transpo are not required to wear a mask. Masks, however, may be worn at the individual’s discretion. Please refer to octranspo.com for more information.

Please keep in mind that reducing COVID-19 risk of transmission is everyone’s responsibility. New Government guidelines state that if your child has COVID Symptoms, presume they are infected with the virus and self-isolate. Please do not send your child on the bus/van or to school.

Reviewing basic school bus safety rules is also critical, particularly for first-time riders.  The following resources are available to teach young students school bus safety: here

Selecting the best mode of transportation for individual family bubbles

If eligible students and their parents choose not to use OSTA’s transportation services, we ask that you opt-out as soon as possible here. Opting Out of Transportation is only temporary and helps OSTA re-organize routes so students whose routes are cancelled can have access to transportation. Parents/Guardians of eligible students may request transportation be re-instituted by completing a Transportation Issues form at any time. Please note that it may take up to a week for transportation to be reinstated after receiving the form.

It is recommended that parents and students use active transportation to get to school as much as possible.  Walking and rolling the whole way, or part of the way, will reduce traffic around the school and provide a mask-free experience.

Please see OSTA’s resources designed to help students who live in the Walk Zone: Walking School Bus, Walk-a-Block, Walk&Roll Meetup, Walk to School Routes, and Pedestrian Safety Tips.

The Empty Seat/Courtesy Seating Program has been temporarily suspended due to an ongoing driver shortage resulting in disruptive long-term and short-term cancellations. The situation will be re-evaluated in November once transportation services have stabilized.

Opt-Out of transportation

If eligible students and their parents choose not to use OSTA’s transportation services, we ask that you opt-out as soon as possible here.

Opting Out of Transportation is only temporary and helps OSTA re-organize routes so students whose routes are cancelled can have access to transportation. Parents/Guardians of eligible students may request transportation be re-instituted by completing a Transportation Issues form at any time. Please note that it may take up to a week for transportation to be reinstated after the form is received.

School Bus Safety

School Bus Safety Starts at Home!

Did you know that school bus safety is EVERY bus rider’s responsibility?

To ensure your child understands how to take the bus safely, OSTA recommends that parents/guardians:

  • Review the School Bus Safety Brochure with their child, either online or in hardcopy format, before school starts and on a regular basis
  • Help their child understand their role in keeping themselves, and the other riders, safe.
  • Practice proper bus riding behaviour at home with their child.

You can help the bus driver get everyone to and from school safely, simply by following these bus safety rules!

Student Behaviour Management *Updated

School bus and van safety rules are designed to reduce injury to students on their ride to and from school.  Students should remain seated with their backpacks on their lap and avoid "horsing-around". They should not eat or drink on the bus/van to avoid spills and garbage.  Bullying on the bus/van, whether verbal or physical, will not be tolerated.

Drivers may ask students to continue sitting in their assigned seats in order to ensure safe riding behaviour, at their discretion.

Students who do not follow general school bus safety rules, and/or who cause disturbances on the bus/van with their unruly behaviour, may be temporarily or permanently suspended from receiving transportation services. Please review these online safety rules with your child.

Seat Assignments *Updated

 

Seating assignments and cohorting are no longer necessary on buses.

Kindergarten students will be seated near the front, and a parent/guardian will be required to meet them at their stop, as usual.

Waiting at the stop *Updated

Distancing at bus stops and on the bus is no longer required.

Where there are many students (i.e. apartment buildings, congregated stops), may be divided into 2 or more stops in order to allow space for smaller groups of students to wait.  It is important that students arrive at their designated stop at least 5 minutes before the posted stop time.

Once the bus arrives, students should not crowd the front door.  Rather, students should line up, where possible.  Students should get to their assigned seats and sit down with their bags on their lap as quickly as possible.

Meeting the Driver *Updated

Operators will do their utmost to keep the same driver on the same run, every day.  If drivers become ill, however, they will be expected to isolate for5 or 10 days.  The route may be covered by a spare driver or may be cancelled for the isolation.

Because Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is designed to protect the wearer, drivers of yellow buses and vans will have the option to wear whatever PPE they feel protects them best, or none at all, at their discretion. Drivers will be provided with PPE, including high-quality non-fit tested N95 masks (optional) or medical-grade masks (minimum requirement), face shields, goggles and rapid antigen tests.

Drivers will also self-assess daily and report any symptoms requiring further testing or isolation to their Operator.  They will be provided with rapid antigen test kits should they become symptomatic.

Loading and unloading at the school *Updated

Upon arriving at the school, students will unload in an orderly fashion.  Physical distancing on the bus is no longer required.  Students should use their personal hand-sanitizer as soon as they get off the bus and before entering the school, if possible.

Schools will continue to organize dismissal times and ensure students get on the right bus.

School Active Transportation

It is recommended that students and their parents engage in active transportation as much as possible. Walking/biking all the way, or driving and walking partway, are excellent ways to add physical activity to their day. Active Transportation also helps reduce vehicle traffic around schools, creating a safer school zone for children and improving air quality for all.

To help support School Active Transportation, OSTA has created Walking Route Maps, Walk-a-Block Maps and Walk&Roll maps for most schools to help your child walk to school safely. Not only is Active Transportation a wonderful way for students (and parents) to add physical activity to their day, it also helps reduce vehicle traffic around schools, creating a safer school zone for children and improving air quality for all.

Read more about OSTA’s Walk-a-Block, Walk&Roll Meetup and other School Active Transportation programs here!

The Walking School Bus Environment *Updated

The Walking School Bus (WSB)  will continue at select schools with precautions.  The WSB leader may or may not be wearing a mask at their discretion. Younger students may be required to hold a rope marked by tape to demonstrate the correct intervals for individual walkers.  Older students follow behind the younger group.  This rope will be cleaned between each run.  Students are not required to wear masks. Students should have their personal hand sanitizer to clean their hands before holding the rope and after they arrive at school.

The Yellow Bus Environment *Updated
  • Seating assignments will no longer be enforced by the school.
  • Loading capacity will be as normal, with a full load being 48-70 students, depending on the number of eligible students and their grade level. Students may be seated 2 or 3 per bench.
  • Students from grades KG to 12 no longer need to wear a mask
  • The bench behind the driver may be left vacant to the extent possible. This bench may be used to isolate a sick child.
  • Deep cleaning of vehicles once a day with an approved disinfectant.
Public Transit Environment *Updated

This September, many grade 7-12 students will be assigned to take OC Transpo to school. OC Transpo is a convenient option for students, allowing them the freedom to use their free Presto School Board Card for extra-curricular activities, commitments or attending part-time jobs. OC Transpo has been working with OSTA to prepare routes to accommodate the number of students expected to ride this year.

A free Presto School Board Pass valid from September to June 30th will be issued to eligible students. Students will be notified by their school at the beginning of September when their Presto cards are available for pick up.

For information on taking public transit for first-time riders, please visit our Public Transit Information Page. We recommend families visit plan.octranspo.com/plan before the upcoming school year for exact bus stop locations and times nearest to their homes. Please make sure to enter the first day of school (September 6) to see an accurate schedule specific to your school. It is also recommended to use the “Arrive By” Time for the morning run to ensure students arrive at school on time. For afternoon runs, select “Depart At” – Please note that the time is displayed in 24-hour format (14:30h = 2:30 pm). Students are also encouraged to practice taking OC Transpo before the beginning of the school year to help guarantee a smooth transition.

To help new riders transition to OC Transpo, OSTA and OC Transpo have developed additional resources on our website, including a helpful video and an FAQ to help guide those new to public transit.

Grace Period

OC Transpo has also advised its bus drivers to allow students to embark on buses without paying fares or showing Presto cards on the first day of school. Students are not required to show identification but may be asked to confirm they are students verbally.

This will allow students to attend school while school staff organize Presto cards for distribution to students.

Registering the PRESTO Cards

Students should register their cards to protect the balance if lost, stolen or damaged. Registration allows students to get a replacement card quickly and transfer any remaining balance (school board pass).

It’s easy to do at prestocard.ca. For information on registering your card, please visit our website for new and returning students.

Returning students who registered their cards last year can log into their existing account and add the new card. To add it, log into their account, click on the drop-down in the webpage’s upper right corner and select “Add an Existing Card.”

Safety on OC Transpo

OC Transpo implemented health and safety measures in close consultation with Ottawa Public Health and aligned with provincial and federal guidelines. For more information on how OC Transpo is keeping its riders safe, visit OC Transpo’s website.

The Van Environment *Updated

  • Parents and school staff may wear a mask when securing students within the van, at their discretion
  • Parents may choose to use a non-scented, disinfectant wipe to clean any plastic or metal surfaces where their child will be sitting. Spray will not be permitted.
  • Students from grades KG to 12 no longer need to wear a mask
  • The driver may wear a mask, at their discretion
  • Deep cleaning of vehicles twice a day with an approved disinfectant. Once after the morning runs and once again after the afternoon runs.

The Wheelchair Bus Environment *Updated
  • The driver may wear a gown, face shield or goggles, mask, and gloves, depending on the circumstances and at their discretion. The driver will use hand sanitizer before and after loading each student or wear gloves.
  • Loading capacity will be normal. Ambulatory Students may be seated 2 or 3 per bench.  All wheelchair positions will be used to secure students using wheelchairs.
  • Students from grades KG to 12 no longer need to wear a mask
  • The bench behind the driver will be left vacant, to the extent possible. This bench may be used to isolate a sick child.
  • Deep cleaning of vehicles twice a day with an approved disinfectant. Once after the morning runs and once again after the afternoon runs.  The handrail, a high touch area, as well as any other affected areas, will be cleaned after every run.
Bus Attendants and Monitors *Updated
  • Bus attendants and monitors will wear increasingly protective gear, depending on their role within the bus/van, at their discretion.  An alternative to using gloves is to use hand sanitizer before and after handling each student.
Adult Crossing Guards *Updated

  • Adult Crossing Guards (ACG) are deployed at warranted locations by the City of Ottawa and are managed by the Ottawa Safety Council. The ACG may be wearing a mask, at their discrtion and some may also wear a face shield if they prefer to.
  • The ACG will indicate using chalk lines or by speaking to students as to where they should stop and stand while waiting to cross the street while maintaining physical distance from pedestrians and students.
  • Students are asked to make a special effort to give crossing guards some space while crossing the street.  Drivers are reminded that it is illegal to proceed through an intersection while a crossing guard remains in the intersection, even if it appears there is space.  This is a finable offence.
Contact Tracing and Service Impacts

Recently, the government's COVID-19 monitoring and response strategy has changed regarding how they respond to the virus. As of January 2022, schools will no longer be performing contact tracing. Parents can voluntarily inform their child's school if they have tested positive on a RAT or PCR test. A formal notification of a positive COVID case will only be made at the school board's discretion if the information is available.

New Government guidelines state that if your child has COVID Symptoms, presume they are infected with the virus and self-isolate. Please do not send your child on the bus/van or to school.

OSTA determines if transportation at a particular school must be suspended on a per case basis.

Immunization Disclosure and Rapid Testing *Updated

It is not mandatory for staff and drivers to be vaccinated against COVID 19 however it is highly recommended.

To protect the safety of everyone on the school bus or van, drivers are required to self-assess daily and report any symptoms requiring further testing or isolation to their Operator.

Unvaccinated drivers or those who have not disclosed their vaccination status, are no longer required to perform regular rapid antigen testing.

Any driver (vaccinated or unvaccinated), who gets a positive result from the rapid antigen test, must not report to work and must isolate according to Public Health guidance.

OSTA will continue to provide RAT tests for symptomatic drivers.