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.
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.
The program is being continued for yet another year, to ensure consistency in driver supply. “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.
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. More than 18,000 drivers have been benefitting from this program each year over the last four school years. It provided eligible school bus drivers up to $2,000 based on continuous employment in the school year.
As of May 6, all eligible education staff province-wide are eligible to register for vaccination appointments and this includes school bus drivers. The student transportation sector will also 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.