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Staff shortage, illnesses behind bus cancellations in Sooke School District

A Sooke School District bus is shown picking up students in an undated photo. (CTV News) A Sooke School District bus is shown picking up students in an undated photo. (CTV News)

The Sooke School District says an ongoing staffing shortage and recent illnesses are behind the cancellation of several school bus routes.

The district has cancelled a route most days for the last two weeks, forcing parents to find alternatives to get their children to school.

To manage the disruption, the district has had to rely on its transport manager and mechanic to drive buses.

“Sometimes we just don’t have enough people to operate those routes,” said school district superintendent Scott Stinson.

“We do apologize to our families for the inconvenience. It’s the reality of the sickness that seems to be rolling through that group of employees unfortunately.”

Stinson said he’s unware if the cancellations has caused any students to miss classes and said he is aware the situation is causing frustration amongst families.

“We try not to impact the same route over multiple days if we can avoid that,” said Stinson.

Stinson said notices are sent out immediately once the district is aware that cancellations are required. Notices go out over social media and the district’s messenger program that sends out emails and voice messages directly to parents.

The district is actively recruiting more employees through ongoing job fairs to add to the 39 full-time and five on-call bus drivers.

Staffing shortages became an issue for the district during the pandemic and the district said it’s not the only employer struggling to fill vacant bus driver positions.

Cameron Gordon-Findlay, a bus driver for the district for 20 years, said he hasn’t seen a shortage like this before.

“Drivers… are postponing doctors' appointments and other family commitments to stay on the route,” said Gordon-Findlay. “The drivers take on these routes and they are part of that family that they are picking up.”

Gordon-Findlay said everyone is “pulling their weight” to tackle the issue.

The veteran driver said the job is a good fit for someone who is retired or looking for a second job with a benefits package.

Gordon-Findlay, 67, said he’s getting pressure from his family to retire but enjoys the job too much to really consider it at this time.

Stinson said he hopes the cancellations will end soon since the end of the year is a busy time with field trips and other events requiring transportation. Top Stories

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