Some aspects of OSTA's routing system had to be re-designed due to changing Ministry of Education's directives. To ensure student and driver safety, operators needed time to coordinate assignments with their drivers and report any routing issues to OSTA. Student safety relies on every aspect of route design and communication being transparent, and this required extra time during this year's complex service deployment. Once the final routes were ready, OSTA uploaded the bus routes into the Parent Portal.
This year’s start-up schedules are very complex. We have requested that our drivers maintain regular schedules as much as possible so they can become familiar with their route and report and timing issues to OSTA for correction. Parents need only load their children on their assigned start date.
Vans and Wheelchair buses offer door to door service. The parent/guardian will receive a phone call from the Driver to confirm the pick-up and drop-off times. The delay in student information did not allow OSTA time to design routes and assign drivers before every student's staggered start date.
OSTA knows that parents/guardians need accurate information to prepare their children for transportation. This year’s route design was delayed due to changing schedules and revised confirmations of attendance throughout August. OSTA needed to ensure that all routes were as complete as possible before sharing the information with parents/guardians.
OC Transpo will be ready to accommodate all student trips as of August 31 and then gradually increasing service as staggered starts come into effect. Visit www.octranspo.com/travelplanner
Most Presto cards have been sent to schools for distribution to students. Schools will set up their own schedules for distribution. OSTA reminds students in grades 9-12 to register their cards at www.prestocard.ca as soon as they receive their school board Presto card.
OSTA has posted numerous resources online including safety videos for various school ages, electronic brochures, colouring book and other materials. To see all the resources available, click here.
If your child alternated between two homes last year, that would continue this year. New applications can be submitted after September 15. Complex schedules require reviewing multiple seating plans. Should a space become available, and we can safely accommodate the request, you will be contacted.
The Ministry of Education and Ottawa Public Health recommend using this screening tool to help parents and guardians decide whether or not their child/children should take the school bus or attend school. Symptoms include a runny nose and/or sneezing, dry cough, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, headache, loss of sense of smell and/or taste, etc. You should not put your child on any vehicle if they exhibit these symptoms. The Driver may refuse the student access to the vehicle if they see the child is visibly sick.
Masks help mitigate the spread of COVID 19, particularly in close quarters like the bus. Students in grades 4 to 12 must wear a mask and it is strongly recommended for students in Kindergarten to grade 3 to wear a mask as well.
Children who cannot wear a mask because of a medical condition or who cannot tolerate a mask because of special needs must report this to the school. They will advise OSTA and the Driver not to expect to see a mask on the child.
No, there will not be any hand-sanitizer on the bus for students. OSTA assessed the benefit of providing hand-sanitizer on the bus and determined that the safety concerns were greater than the benefits. Excess hand-sanitizer can create a slippery surface on the stairs and floor, is flammable on extremely hot days, can cause nausea and discomfort if students lick their hands or ingest fluid, and would be difficult to manage during cold-weather days where mittens and gloves are involved. OSTA strongly recommends parents ensure students wash their hands at home before leaving for the bus stop and then use their personal hand-sanitizer prior to boarding and getting off the bus, when possible.
Ministry Guidelines indicate that physical distancing should occur where possible on the bus, and that full loads were acceptable otherwise. Typical loading would be 2 or 3 students per seat depending on the grade level. Students may be seated 1 per seat, when there is space available. OSTA and the school have taken other measures to ensure student safety including: asking students to opt-out of transportation so they are not planned on vehicles; grouping students on the bus by family bubble and/or by classroom cohort; students are wearing masks as much as possible; students who cannot wear a mask will be assigned a separate seat if available; suspended courtesy seating to reduce numbers of riders; enhanced cleaning twice a day.
On a bus, the entire vehicle is cleaned twice a day with approved disinfectant spray. High touch areas such as seat tops/front/back, windows, window latches, walls, stairs, and handrails are sprayed. Handrails will be cleaned between every run.
On a van, exterior and interior door panels and handles, windows, seat belt latches, buckle guards and any plastic or metal surfaces on car seats and boosters are sprayed. Cloth seats will not be sprayed as these would remain too wet for riders.
Buses and vans will be cleaned twice a day. Due to limited capacity in our system and tight timing of routes, it is not operationally possible to clean thoroughly between every run. OSTA has put in place other mitigation strategies like having students wear masks and grouping students by family bubble or classroom cohorts. Handrails will be cleaned between every run. If there is any noticeable body fluid in a van or wheelchair bus, the driver will clean those affected areas between runs.
In vans only, parents/guardians are welcome to clean any plastic or metal surfaces with an unscented wipe, before loading their child in the van. Sprays will not be allowed.
Yes. Parents/guardians of any students assigned to vans, and who are responsible for securing their child within the van, must wear a mask to reduce the potential spread of the virus to other riders in the van.
Drivers, like students, may have a medical condition that precludes them from wearing a mask. In those cases, the driver will have the option to wear a face shield while students are loading or unloading. OSTA anticipates that the potential contact between the Driver and students walking by is of short duration. Drivers may also not be wearing their face shield or mask while driving, if it interferes with their vision.
School buses in Ontario follow Transport Canada’s D-250 standards. The Ministry of Transportation of Ontario, which enforces these standards, has stated that the school bus environment is currently designed to protect students from injury. The addition of plexiglass, stanchions or other barriers, which have not been crash-tested, could cause injury in the event of a hard stop or accident.
Drivers will be given the option to wear medical-grade masks, goggles, and/or face-shields. Those who interact closely with students to secure them, such as wheelchair bus drivers, may be wearing paper gowns. All drivers will be provided hand-sanitizer and the bench behind the driver will be kept vacant, if possible. Drivers will also wear gloves to protect their hands while using disinfectant spray to clean.
Over the next few weeks, schools will prepare seat assignments for every morning and afternoon bus run. Students will be seated by family bubble, with siblings together. Then classroom cohorts will be grouped together. Kindergarten students will be seated closer to the front. Students who cannot wear a mask will be seated by themselves, if there is space. Students will be given their seat number. Within the bus, each seat will be numbered 1 to 24 and students must sit in their assigned seat. The Driver will be given the seating plan when it is ready.
Graphics have been provided online and to the school that demonstrates the safety precautions students should follow on the bus. These graphics will also be posted within all buses to remind them to wear their mask, stay in their assigned seat and maintain physical distance while getting on and off the bus.
Students who repeatedly cause disturbances could be suspended either temporarily or permanently from the bus. The Driver will report the misconduct to the school through the Bus Behaviour Report Form. Student and driver safety is our number one priority.
Should a driver or student become sick on the bus, the school will contact Ottawa Public Health(OPH). OPH has their own risk-assessment protocols and contact tracing will begin if necessary. OPH will also give affected individuals instructions on the next steps.
A sick child or driver on the bus does not mean the whole bus route is cancelled, nor that every individual must self-isolate. The degree of contact between the infected individual and others determines whether there is a high risk of transmission, or a low risk of transmission. Only those students sitting within 2 or 3 seats of the affected student may be contacted by Ottawa Public Health for further evaluation and action.
It is not possible to secure more buses and vans as there is a driver shortage in the Ottawa market. However, we can accommodate a few extra runs per vehicle to adhere to new, variable school schedules. This will also allow OSTA to spread out students.
OSTA has prepared a number of scenarios in the event there is a driver shortage. In the short-term, some bus runs may be cancelled while an interim plan is put in place. Parents/guardians would be notified via email subscription (if they have signed up) and cancellations would be posted on the website with messages sent through social media. Routes may be re-designed, or shuttle service from central locations may be put in place. Schools that are considered “high needs schools” will be prioritized for service.
On a daily basis by midday, OSTA will post a list of routes that have been cancelled for the following day. There may be cancellations the morning of service on short-notice, however. These last-minute cancellations will be posted online, and messages sent to affected parents who have signed up for email communication. OSTA will also advise the media, although it is not guaranteed the media will report each cancelled route. The best option is to check the website daily.
Circumstances are changing daily. Transportation services will be restored as soon as a driver is available and can commit to the route. Families will be advised when cancelled routes are ready to be reinstated.
OSTA’s and our Operators’ ability to cover open routes really depended on which drivers left their routes, and how much extra work or changes remaining drivers were willing to take on. Rural routes where there is no public transit were prioritized as well as schools in “high needs” communities, as provided by school boards.
OSTA has developed a number of resources to help schools promote a safe school zone. Walk-a-Block Maps have been developed for every school and signs have been distributed to every elementary school with a QR code that links to their school’s map. These encourage parents to park away from the school site and walk partway to school. City of Ottawa By-Law Services and Ottawa Police Services have also committed resources to help schools manage traffic. Communication campaigns are also being deployed through radio and social media channels.