FAQ for 2021-2022 Return to School

+ - Why is there a van in my driveway? Our schedule doesn’t start for a few more days.

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.

+ - When will there be a van/wheelchair bus available for my child’s 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.

+ - Why was the empty seat/courtesy seating program suspended this year?  It seems there is a lot of space on the bus.
The Ministry’s Guidelines recommend students practice physical distancing while on the bus, as a way of mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Therefore, adding students in the Walk Zone or cross-boundary to the school through the courtesy seating program would increase the possibility of transmission among riders.  In addition, seat assignments and contact tracing are necessary elements required by Ottawa Public Health, and courtesy riders would make this process more challenging.
+ - Why was the Parent Portal open so late this year?  We usually have 2 or 3 weeks to look at our child’s information.

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.

+ - Will OC Transpo be ready for school start-up?

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

+ - When will Presto cards be distributed?

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.

+ - With Bus and Pedestrian Safety Day cancelled this year, how can I prepare my child who has never taken the bus?

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.

+ - My child alternates between my home and his/her other parent’s home.  Why can’t we get transportation to two homes when school starts?

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.

+ - Why do I have to assess my child’s health every day?

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.

+ - Does my child need to wear a mask?

Masks help mitigate the spread of COVID 19, particularly in close quarters like the bus. All students from grades Kindergarten to 12 will be required to wear a face mask (cloth or medical), on all vehicles, including school buses, vans and wheelchair buses. Please note that a neck warmer or scarf is not considered an appropriate face mask on board vehicles.

+ - My child can’t wear a mask due to a medical condition.  What should I do?

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.

+ - Will there be hand-sanitizer on the bus?

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.

+ - How many students will be in each seat?

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.

+ - What does “enhanced cleaning” entail?

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.

+ - Will the bus/van be cleaned between every load of students?

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.

+ - Can I clean the area where my child will be sitting?

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.

+ - Should I wear a mask when I load my child in a van?

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.

+ - Why is our driver not wearing a mask and/or face shield?

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.

+ - Will there be a barrier or shield between the driver and the students?

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.

+ - How will drivers be protected as they drive hundreds of students to and from school?

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.

+ - How will seat assignments be managed?

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.

+ - How will students know what school bus safety precautions they should follow?

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.

+ - How will students who don’t comply with safety precautions be disciplined?

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.

+ - What happens if a student gets sick and is potentially diagnosed with COVID?

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.

+ - If a sick child or driver was on the bus, does that mean the whole bus has to self-isolate?

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.

+ - Will there be more buses and vans to address physical distancing?

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.

+ - What happens if there’s a driver shortage?

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.

+ - How do I find out if our route has been cancelled?

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.

+ - I just found out our route is cancelled. When will I get transportation again?

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.

+ - How did OSTA decide which routes to cancel?

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.

+ - Traffic around schools is heavy at the best of times.  How will extra traffic be managed at the school now that more parents might be driving their children to school?

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.

+ - What resources are available for a safe walk to school?

Students can have safety in numbers with OSTA’s Walk & Roll Meetup Maps.  Each school’s map show meetup stops where students can gather (and stay apart) while walking to school.  Pedestrian safety tips are also available online.  A number of schools have Walking School Bus Routes available.





Do you want to request a change to a bus stop location?

All requests for changes to bus stop locations must be made in writing to OSTA. Requests for stop changes can not be made over the phone. Requests for changes to stop locations will not be considered until after October 1. Please be aware that school bus drivers are not authorized to make route/stop adjustments. To ensure that your request is directed to the correct person for action, please ensure that your request is sent to the zone in which your child’s school is located.

Do you have a concern about a school bus driver?

Your feedback is very important to the bus companies which transport your child. They strive to ensure that drivers take every precaution possible for the safety of your child. Should you have a concern regarding a particular school bus driver, please have your bus route number handy, and contact the transportation operator (company) directly.

Please contact the office administrator at your child’s school should you wish to report a change to your child’s address or caregiver information. The school will update their student records and this change will automatically be sent to OSTA to apply transportation service changes, if applicable. Any change to your child’s transportation becomes effective on the fourth working day after the change has been entered by the school.

Contact the OCSB (Catholic) +
Contact the OCDSB (Public) +