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Prince George school bus routes cancelled after sudden resignation of drivers

Dozens of families in Prince George, B.C., were left scrambling for ways to get their kids to class on the first day of school after the sudden resignation of multiple school bus drivers.

According to an email sent to parents, several drivers tendered their resignations in the 48 hours leading up to the first day of class Tuesday. Affected schools included Beaverly Elementary School, Prince George Secondary School, Shas Ti Kelly Road Secondary School, D.P. Todd Secondary School and Heritage Elementary School.

School District 57 Superintendent Cindy Heitman said four routes had to be cancelled, affecting up to 80 students in multiple parts of the city.

“It is disappointing news and not how we envisioned the first day of school,” Heitmann said.

‘Lots of confusion’

The cancellations involve First Student, which was awarded the school bus contract for Prince George in June. 

According to its website, First Students provides school transportation for K-12 students across North America.

In an email to parents, the company blamed the cancellations, in part, on “the ongoing shortage of school bus drivers” across the continent.

“Over the past three months, we have been working to secure drivers for all of School District 57 routes and have been getting close to the number required to deliver service to all families,” the email read. “Unfortunately, we have had several drivers that had committed to taking routes tender their resignations over the past 48 hours.”

When First Student took over the school bus contract for Prince George, it touted its newer buses equipped with GPS devices providing real-time communication in the event of slow arrivals or delays as a key feature.

But several parents say they didn’t get notified about the cancellations until early Tuesday morning.

Students at Shas Ti Kelly Road Secondary School were affected by school bus driver shortages on the first day of the new school year. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Shannon Zwiers, who has a daughter in Grade 10, said she had to call in late to work Tuesday morning because of the change and then leave midway through the day to pick her up again.

“The communication has been a little bit all over the place,” Zwiers said. “There’s a lot of confusion — we didn’t see a bus this morning, and I didn’t have time to make alternative arrangements for school transportation.”

Many parents in other parts of Canada have also been disappointed by school bus disruptions, as students in northwestern Ontario and Ottawa, for instance, were left to find their own way to school Tuesday due to their own driver shortages.

The school district says it continues to work with First Student to ensure transportation is available to all students registered for school bus service, including adjusting stops on existing bus routes.

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