A school bus in Yellowknife. Ollie Williams/Cabin Radio
Schools in Yellowknife have changed the criteria for students to take the bus to school during the 2023-24 academic year, citing a lack of drivers.
In a letter addressed to families dated July 24, the city’s three school districts – Yellowknife Catholic Schools, Commission scolaire francophone Territoires du Nord-Ouest, and YK1 – said there are currently only eight bus drivers for 13 school bus routes.
As a result, they said, while students living closer to schools had previously been allowed to take the bus to class at a higher, unsubsidized rate, they will now be placed on a waiting list. The letter states those students will be contacted only if space becomes available.
To be eligible for a subsidized school bus pass of $225, kindergarten children must live further than 0.4 kilometres from school. Students in grades 1-3 must live further than 1.2 kilometres from school to be eligible for a bus pass, further than 1.6 kilometres for students in grades 4 to 6, and further than two kilometres for students in grades 7 to 8.
The Yellowknife school districts said they are trying to address the gap in drivers with Transdev, the company that now operates school buses in the city. That includes increasing the hourly wage for drivers from $27 to $32, introducing recruitment and retention bonuses, and installing a GPS system to help drivers with route changes.
“Please help us recruit school bus drivers,” the letter states.
This is not the first time a lack of drivers has resulted in changes to school buses in the city.