Hamilton tour company offers to help offset school bus driver shortage


It's back to school time and while many parents and students are anxious about what this year will bring, one Hamilton tour company is hoping to help remove some of that stress.

School bus driver shortages across Hamilton are a major concern in the lead up to a full return to school, in fact, there have been reports from parents in rural parts of the city that on the first day of school this week, their children waited for a school bus that didn't show up.

Waterdown-based Redback Tours, the company behind Original Hamilton Beer Tours, is hoping to provide two of their buses and drivers to help provide temporary support for Hamilton-Wentworth Student Transportation Services (HWSTS).

"We want them to put us to work," said Redback owner Angela Ferris. "I can't imagine waiting at the side of the road with your child for a school bus you can't be sure will show up."

When Ferris heard from friends who had experienced the fruitless roadside wait, she and her husband, Paul, knew they could help.

"I reached out to the school board and they directed us to [HWSTS]," Ferris explained. "I've been on hold all morning and there's no other way to get through to them. We can't even get through to them to tell them we can help if they need it."

Redback has two buses available with drivers. One carries twelve people and the other is a 20-seat bus. Both have hand sanitization stations on board and they have seatbelts, Ferris explained. Students would be required to wear masks.

"We're not looking to do this long-term or take their contract," she said. "We just want to help get the kids to school if we can. Parents and students have too much to worry about this year."

Late last week, both of Hamilton's school boards issued a statement warning parents and students to expect significant delays for some bus routes.

"Hamilton-Wentworth Student Transportation Services (HWSTS) has advised both HWDSB and HWCDSB that serious delays in student transportation services are expected for the return to school as a result of the ongoing school bus driver shortage which this year has been compounded by increased concerns around COVID-19," the notice said.

InTheHammer was unable to reach HWSTS before publication.

In the meantime, Ferris continues to try and connect with the board's student transportation provider to see if they can lend a hand.

"It could keep our buses and drivers busy," she said. "And it gets more kids to school safely and on time."

Photo: Redback Travel handout

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