The Wheels on the Bus

The first day of school is often met with anticipation, expectation and a degree of trepidation from students and their families. Advance planning is key to getting students to school before that first bell. This process can be particularly challenging for children with special needs. One major part of this process includes the ride on the bus to school. More than 800,000 students are bused to and from school each year.

Advanced planning also goes into the process of that bus pick up, by the School Boards, Ministry of Education and the Transportation Consortia.

Under the Education Act, School Boards are self-governing bodies entitled to establish their own transportation eligibility criteria and policies. There is no legislated requirement that Boards provide busing for students. However, the Act excuses children from attending school, if transportation is not provided by a Board, and there is no school within a prescribed distance from the residence. In Ontario, most School Boards arrange transportation for eligible students, usually by school bus.

The Ministry of Education plays an important financial role in student transportation. It provides the bulk of operating funding to school Boards, through the Grants for Student Needs Program, also known as the funding formula. For the 2016-2017 school year, the total transportation grant amounted to $898.6 million.

School Boards establish policies and eligibility criteria related to student transportation. To deliver these services efficiently, those in the same geographic area typically join together to establish a body to assist with arranging transportation, referred to as a Consortium. They are represented on the Boards that govern these consortia, and must provide them with information about their schools and students to assist in administering the transportation program. School Boards are not required by law to establish consortia, but since 2000, the Ministry of Education has provided financial incentives to those that chose to do so.

School busing delays and mishaps occur each year. If you have had trouble with the busing system, and have been unable to resolve this problem, contact your School Board, Bus Company, Consortium, and as a last resort – the Ombudsman. If you are having trouble, chances are other families are as well. Together we can work to make the system better. If you know of an outstanding employee, and the system is working well for you, let them know that as well – they will appreciate it! Parents can help keep the “wheels on the bus” keep going “round and round” by participating in this process.

Information taken from the Ombudsman Report – Paul Dube, Ombudsman of Ontario, August 2017