TORONTO — As part of ongoing efforts to provide students with continued access to safe and reliable transportation, the Ontario government announced that it will continue the School Bus Driver Retention Pilot (DRP) program in the 2021-22 school year. To ensure reliable transportation service throughout the pandemic, the Ontario government had extended the DRP program in the 2020-21 school year, supporting driver retention and recruitment.
The DRP program rewards school bus drivers who stay on the job throughout the school year with the intent to reduce driver turnover leading to service stability for students and families by minimizing delays and disruptions.
The DRP program has been in place for the past four school years and has helped provide stability and reliability in the student transportation system across the province. The extension to the upcoming school year will continue to provide eligible drivers with up to $2,000 based on continuous employment during the school year. It is estimated that this will benefit approximately 18,000 drivers across Ontario who provide transportation to over 830,000 students every day.
“Our commitment is to ensure students can get to schools safely with a caring, reliable and motivated group of school bus drivers,” said Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education. “This investment will support service reliability and keep students safe. Our government is taking action to prevent student transportation disruptions so that students can confidently get to and from school under the care of hard-working school bus drivers in our communities.”
The Ontario government will continue the DRP program by providing total funding of over $40 million to support school bus drivers and support service reliability for families in rural and urban settings across the province.
“In what has been a difficult year for workers across the education sector, our government is taking strong and decisive action to continue supporting some of the most important people in education — those who safely drive our students to and from school,” said Sam Oosterhoff, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Education and MPP for Niagara West. “It is good news for drivers, students, and families alike that the School Bus Driver Retention Pilot program is being continued for yet another year, to ensure consistency in driver supply. This demonstrates Premier Ford and Minister Lecce’s commitment to the essential workers of our province, including school bus drivers.”
“School bus drivers perform an incredibly important role each and every day, and they deserve our thanks,” said Nancy Daigneault, Executive Director of School Bus Ontario. “I applaud the government for rewarding these hard-working school bus drivers by continuing the DRP, and for putting service reliability and student safety first.”
At a time when the pandemic has created serious disruptions in the labour market, and many school bus operators are having trouble finding qualified staff, the DRP program provides a financial incentive for school bus drivers to stay on the job, and will help to provide stability for students and families by minimizing transportation delays in the 2021-22 school year.
- Over 18,000 drivers have been benefiting from this program each year over the last four school years.
- The DRP program provides eligible school bus drivers up to $2,000 based on continuous employment in the school year.
- As of May 6th, 2021, all eligible education staff province-wide are eligible to register for vaccination appointments. Education staff eligible to book vaccination appointments include any school board staff or student transportation partners who typically work in-person in elementary and secondary schools. This eligibility includes school bus drivers province-wide.
- The Ontario government is providing more than $2 billion in new supports to advance and protect public education for the 2021-22 school year. The support includes more than $1.6 billion in resources to respond to COVID-19 and an $85.5 million commitment to support learning recovery and renewal in response to the ongoing pandemic.
- The $1.6 billion in funding to respond to COVID-19 includes $65.5 million for enhanced cleaning protocols and other safety measures in student transportation, such as reducing the number of students on school buses to support physical distancing.
- The student transportation sector will benefit from the continued provision of required personal protective equipment (PPE) and critical supplies and equipment (e.g., cleaning supplies) through the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services and the pandemic stockpile.