February 28th, 2024

Hat low on school bus drivers

By KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on January 20, 2022.

A lack of school bus drivers is just one more concern local school divisions are facing this year. -- NEWS PHOTO KENDALL KING

kking@medicinehatnews.com

Southland Transportation is reporting a shortage of school bus drivers in Medicine Hat.

A representative from the company confirmed to the News Tuesday that five driver positions are currently unoccupied.

“It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it really is. It’s a lot of drivers,” the representative said. “If we could get more we’d be very, very happy.”

Southland is the school bus provider for both of Medicine Hat’s school divisions.

Southland operates a total of 39 routes for Medicine Hat Catholic Board of Education, with approximately 1,440 students using school bus services daily.

In the Medicine Hat Public School Division, Southland operates a total of 60 school bus routes including two routes for students with special needs and four routes for early learning program participants. Approximately 2,500 MHPSD students use school buses each day.

MHPSD superintendent Mark Davidson is aware of the lack of drivers and says it has been an ongoing issue.

“Southland has been working really hard to continue service. To be frank, we’ve had issues with having enough drivers since well before COVID. This is an issue not created by COVID, although, perhaps, exacerbated by it,” Davidson told the News.

Officials from MHCBE provided the following statement to the News: “School (bus) driver absences have affected a couple of our routes, but we are working closely with Southland Transportation.”

Southland did not speak on how schools might be affected if drivers are not found to fill the vacancies, however the representative did confirm the company is currently in the process of hiring new drivers.

“We are hiring and training every day,” the representative said. “It is an extensive process to train a new driver so even when we do get one it still takes a bit of time.”

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