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Driver shortage leads to school bus route cancellations in Sooke district

Some students have missed classes because of the cancellations, district says
Seven additional buses are expected for the next school year for the growing district, and the goal is for all of them to be electric, says the Sooke School District superintendent. SCHOOL DISTRICT 61

A lack of bus drivers has meant daily route cancellations in the Sooke School District over the past two weeks.

One day saw three route cancellations, said superintendent Scott Stinson.

In most cases it has been one a day, although two routes had their morning and afternoon runs cancelled Thursday.

The shortage is part of a B.C.-wide trend, he said, with a lack of drivers a particular issue in northern school districts.

Stinson said recent driver illnesses have contributed to the number of buses being cancelled in the district.

The district has 44 drivers working on 39 routes.

“We’ve had a really good run over the course of this year with consistency and very few cancellations,” Stinson said. “But in the last little while, there’s been a bit of a bug running through our drivers.”

That, coupled with some drivers having appointments to attend during the day, has exhausted the supply of spare drivers — which sometimes includes the transportation manager and bus mechanic taking on routes.

“Hopefully we’re on the tail end of that,” Stinson said.

He said the district is hoping to hire more drivers, and is also offering training to people interested in taking on the job.

Stinson noted there have been some cases where students have missed classes because of the bus cancellations.

“We try not to impact the same route over multiple days to limit that impact, and in many cases families will carpool with some of the students that are in the area.

“Unfortunately in some cases, it does mean a student is not able to get to school.”

Seven additional buses are expected for the next school year for the growing district, although some will be replacements for existing buses.

The intent is for all of the new buses to be electric, Stinson said.

The district welcomed its first electric school bus in 2021.

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