He was unaccounted for until a stranger called the school 10 minutes later to say she had found him.
As a result, Sharp Bus Lines put another driver on Zaiden’s route. But on Thursday, there was more confusion.
Not only was the bus more than two hours late dropping off students, but also when Zaiden’s parents arrived at his school after deciding to pick him up themselves, his father got an unsettling phone call from Sharp Bus Lines.
“My phone rings and it was … the dispatcher from Sharp Bus Lines,” Carlos Oberoi told CityNews.
Her exact message to me was, ‘Could you please let us know if there’s someone to pick up your son Zaiden at the front of the condo because we’re here now to drop him off?’”
“I was like, ‘Really? It’s very strange. I’m sitting in the office at Gateway and … my son is in the office with us. So, which Zaiden do you have?’”
It turns out, there was another student named Zaiden.
“Unfortunately, there are two students with the same first name on this route, and as a result the dispatcher contacted the wrong parent,” Sharp Bus Lines said in an email.
“Once the dispatcher realized this, she contacted the other family, and the guardian came out to take the child off of the bus safely.”
Oberoi said he’s worried for his son’s safety and believes the Toronto District School Board should be taking action.
“To me, it’s business,” he said. “If a business messes up, why don’t you just get rid of the company if they keep dropping the ball.”
Oberoi told CityNews he has contacted a lawyer to see what legal action could be taken against the school board.
“Do we have to wait for something tragic to come out of this — one of our kids get caught up in a bad situation?” he said.
The TDSB said it wouldn’t comment because it’s now a legal matter.
The Ontario Ombudsman is investigating the school bus shortage.
On September 8, virtually every major newspaper wrote about the school bus driver shortage.
Disruptions like these have affected at least 2,000 students from Toronto public and Catholic school boards, who this week were left stranded or waiting hours for buses because of what board officials are calling a sudden and unexpected shortage of drivers.
“It’s all hands on deck now, we’re doing everything we can to ensure students entitled to bus service get it as soon as possible and that any service disruptions are mitigated,” John Yan, spokesperson for the Toronto Catholic District School Board, said Thursday.
However, Yan said it could take up to two weeks before enough drivers have been transferred from other carriers to fill in or hired from outside and trained to do the job.
About 60 of the 1,758 bus routes for students at the Catholic board and the Toronto District School Board are without drivers, Yan said.
The result was chaos for many students and working parents, who took to social media and airwaves with tales of kids waiting up to 90 minutes for buses in blazing heat, and confusion at after-school dropoffs with no buses in sight or word of their arrival times.
In some cases, students were being sent home in taxis or, like Evan and Ethan, driven by school staff who wanted to ensure their safety.
While some schools were reporting incremental improvements by Thursday, the bus consortium was still reporting delays of up to 105 minutes on some after-school routes.
The group, which provides updates on bus delays, posted a notice on its Facebook page Sept. 1 indicating bus drivers were still needed for Toronto routes.
More than 1,000 children in Toronto are either getting to school late or not going at all due to an “unanticipated” bus driver shortage.
Two Toronto school boards said they are scrambling to get as many children to school with drivers doubling and tripling up on routes, calling in extra drivers and buses and taxis — even some principals are using their cars to help out.
“It’s unacceptable,” said Toronto District School Board spokesman Ryan Bird.
“We should have been seeing our students transported to and from school as usual this week.”
He said some students — primarily elementary school children — are waiting more than an hour for a bus while some never show up.
The TDSB and the Toronto Catholic District School Board — both use buses from a consortium of companies — said there are about 60 routes that currently don’t have drivers.
Both boards said the problems stem from a driver shortage from three companies: Attridge Transportation, Wheelchair Accessible Transit and Sharp Bus Lines.
Bird said as recently as two weeks ago, the public board heard from its transportation carriers that everything was fine for the school year.
“Last week we started to hear about potential number problems, but no one anticipated this to be an issue, otherwise we would have told everyone,” Bird said.
He said the board will recoup costs from the companies that aren’t meeting their service demands. (via tsun)
Meanwhile, the union was blaming the province (city-blame).
Canada’s largest driver’s union is blaming a shortage of school bus drivers in Toronto on Queen’s Park.
Unifor Local 4268 says the province’s current “request for proposals” system for awarding school bus contracts leads to constant instability as school bus companies try to outbid each other for the contracts.
“We have been predicting this and it is the direct result of a deeply flawed competitive procurement program that the province has mandated for the school boards,” union president Debbie Montgomery told 680 NEWS on Thursday.
The lowest bidder often wins and in some cases, it’s the drivers who lose out, especially when it comes to pay. One bus driver, who asked to remain anonymous, told CityNews they were paid by the length of the route. For example, if a driver was stuck in traffic, or had to return to the school to drop off a child because there was no parent at the bus stop, they were paid as if they had driven a normal route.
In addition, a bus driver said their duties extend far beyond driving: from breaking up fights to watching for drivers who don’t obey the flashing lights to monitoring the youngest children, who may be unaware of what stop they need to exit, they’re tasked with duties beyond that of, say, a taxi driver.
This may have led to fewer people wanting to drive school buses, and low staff retention rates.
“This business has always been low paid and precarious and we’ve always dealt with driver shortages, but this [procurement program] has made it worse,” Montgomery said.
“I believe it was avoidable.”
Hopefully lessons will be learned for the next year.