TLDSB superintendent Tim Ellis said several bus companies are struggling to find drivers to cover school trips and extracurricular activities, especially in rural communities like Haliburton County.

Local trustee Gary Brohman raised the issue during an April 12 meeting, saying he had heard from a handful of parents concerned about the bussing situation. He asked Ellis what plans the school board had to help alleviate the issue.

Ellis said since the hiring of bus drivers falls outside of TLDSB jurisdiction, there wasn’t much the board could do.

“The driver shortage, initially due to COVID, was very apparent at the beginning of the year and it continues to be a challenge. Finding reliable bus drivers has been very difficult for our providers,” Ellis said. “They’re doing the best they can to keep the drivers they have, keep their routes running and supporting our activities both during and after school as best they can.”

Superintendent Kim Williams said teachers and coaches have been trying to find rides for students. This has, on occasion, seen parents drafted in to drive.

“If we cannot access a bus, we’re looking to parent volunteers who have completed all the necessary paperwork [they need] to drive the kids,” Williams said. “Each school handles that differently, but it has worked quite well.”

Williams noted parents are usually compensated for driving, but, again, that is dealt with on a school-by-school basis.

New website coming

Director of Education Wes Hahn was excited to share that a soft internal launch of the board’s new website went off without a hitch earlier this month.

The project, led by Carolynne Bull and the communications department, has been months in the making.

Trustees signed off on the redesign during budget deliberations last year.

“It’s fantastic, very modern,” Hahn said. “We will have lots of great ways of communicating with our communities, not only externally but internally as well.

There’s lots of exciting things happening with the website, and we can’t wait to roll it out.”

The new site is expected to go live later this year.

Schools open to community

Ellis informed the board that schools across the district have been reopened for community rental.

Schools were locked down throughout the pandemic, only open to students and staff. Back in March, after the Ontario government lifted most COVID-19 restrictions, they started to welcome back groups that had typically used school facilities pre-pandemic. Any group wanting to rent space must first apply for a permit. Ellis says there are 76 active permits across TLDSB.

Space is rented on a cost-recovery basis, Ellis notes. For a full breakdown, or to register, visit community-use-of-schools. Groups can rent gym space, classrooms and outdoor fields.

OSSLT results

Providing an update on secondary school learning, Williams said the board’s initial results from the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test were encouraging.

“The success rate of participating students was 74.6 per cent,” Williams shared.

The OSSLT will be written again in the spring.