Another school bus route has been cancelled until further notice and, like the others already cancelled, for the same reason: staff shortages at First Transit.
Route 5 has now been shut down as of Monday. An announcement at the Yellowknife Education District No. 1 (YK1) website confirmed the cancellation.
“People are quitting or resigning from their positions as a bus drivers to take on other positions” said Jameel Aziz, superintendent of schools with YK1, said on Tuesday. “School bus driving is a part time position here in Yellowknife, and many of people are moving on to full-time work with full-time pay.”
The announcement also stated that First Transit has indicated there is no additional space on other routes to accommodate any affected families. Route 5 joins Routes 7, 10, and 12 in the cancellation department.
Aziz said the situation has created a lot of challenges for both children and their families to get to school in the morning, and he was not pleased with the situation.
He’s urging the bus company start taking a hard look at these types of challenges and to devise ways to make school bus drivers positions more attractive to people.
But Aziz said school boards are limited in what they can do.
“Unfortunately, as a school system, we have to use actual yellow school buses, and we have to have certain levels of driver training and insurance,” he said. “But we don’t really have the ability to remedy the situation ourselves. We are working with First Transit (and) discuss with them to see what some of the potential solutions might be, as well as meeting with their new ownership later this month.”
Yellowknife Catholic Schools and la Commission scolaire francophone des Territoires du Nord-Ouest, the French school board, will also be part of that meeting.
First Transit was bought by Transdev, a Quebec-based group, in October 2022. The sale was finalized this past March.
Aziz said that cancellations in Yellowknife are part of an ongoing problem around North America.
“The issue that we are hearing (is) this is not a Yellowknife issue, but a issue across Canada, and parts of the U.S.,” he said. “I know all sorts of jurisdictions that are having a very difficult time filling their bus driver positions and actually keeping their routes up and running.”
Aziz assured families that the boards are still trying to reach out the the bus company to figuring out solutions in the long-term, but he cannot see the situation changing anytime soon.
Yellowknifer attempted to get comment from both First Transit and Yellowknife Catholic Schools, but did not hear back as of press time.