Ontario school bus drivers concerned about new school year

WATCH: School bus drivers are still waiting to hear what their role will be when school resumes in September and the lack of certainty is causing concern. Aaron Streck reports.

School bus drivers are still waiting to hear what their role will be when school resumes in September and the lack of certainty is causing concern.

“When a student gets on the bus they walk within 12 inches of my face,” said Whitby school bus driver Rob Robson.

Robson has been driving kids to school for the past nine years.

The 60-year-old drives between 30 and 36 students daily. He says being in a high-risk category for COVID-19 leaves him concerned.

“We’re in a really confined space for up to an hour at a time, twice a day and right now there’s no plan,” said Robson.

Last year Robson’s route was to St. Charles Garnier, a secondary school in north Whitby. He says about 90 per cent of the students who go there use a school bus.

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“Four weeks to school and we have no idea what our runs are, we don’t know what kind of PPE we’re going to have, we don’t know how the buses are going to be cleaned after each run, who’s going to have to clean those buses, we just don’t know, we’re in the dark,” said Robson.

About 18,000 school bus drivers in Ontario transport around 833,000 students to and from school.

Nancy Daigneault, the executive director of School Bus Ontario, says they’ve been working with the Ministry of Education, Transportation and Public Health on new protocols.

“Everything is going to depend on the numbers for COVID, that’s the way we are going. The numbers are going down, the curve flattened that’s great news. We want to keep it that way and everything is going to be decided depending on the numbers and probably regionally,” Daigneault said.

Last week, the provincial government announced $40 million for cleaning and sanitizing supplies for buses as well as personal protective equipment for drivers.

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“The operators will be working very closely with the drivers to make sure that safety protocols are in place, they understand them, they understand when hand sanitizer is supposed to be used, how to wear your masks, and when to put on the visors,” said Daigneault.

While plans are in the works, the government is encouraging alternate forms of travel and recommending assigned seating. Daigneault couldn’t give a date but they’re hoping to have something solidified in the coming days.

Meanwhile, Robson says the longer bus drivers have to wait for a plan, the more unprepared they will be and the greater the risk of losing staff.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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