During these unprecedented times, the Northwestern Ontario Student Services Consortium is working closely with Member School Boards, the Northwestern Health Unit, our bus operator partners, and the Ministry of Education to mitigate health risks associated with COVID-19 on school transportation vehicles to the extent possible.
This page outlines how various aspects of school transportation will be handled to ensure that students continue to arrive at school safely, on time, and ready to learn during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
As conditions, guidelines, and best practices continue to evolve, so will our approach to delivering student transportation. As a result, the following information is subject to change. We encourage you to check back for new information regularly, and to register for our email and text message alerts.
All students must register for transportation separately from the school registration by going to https://www.nwobus.ca/transportation-request-form/ . Registration is subject to eligibility conditions as outlined in the NWOSSC Transportation Policy. Please check the Parent Portal (www.nwobus.ca/parent-portal) for confirmation of your student’s registration.
New registrations are processed as soon as possible, in the order that they are received, however please be aware that it may take longer than normal for new bussing arrangements to be made.
If your child is a bus student but you do not intend to use school bus service regularly, we ask that you notify us and opt-out of transportation.
Active forms of travel (for example, walking and cycling) and private transportation by parents and caregivers, are encouraged where possible to ease pressure on transportation demand. Please read below for more information about active school travel.
If you opt out you may register your child for bussing at a later date, however, please note that it may take longer than normal to process new registrations due to enhanced safety protocols.
Your child’s bus number and pick up/drop off times are available through the NWOSSC Parent Portal. You will need to sign up for the Parent Portal using your child’s Ontario Education Number (OEN) which can be found on their report card.
To support the return to school 5 days a week school buses will operate at, or close to, regular capacity in accordance with the Ministry of Education Guide to Reopening Ontario’s Schools. Regular capacity for school bus seating is up to three students per seat for Kindergarten to Grade 6, and two students per seat for Grades 7-12.
In order to facilitate efficient contact tracing, assigned seating will be used on all school buses. Priority will be given to seating students with others from the same household, students from the same classroom, and students in the same grade/school.
Bus transfers will be avoided wherever possible, but students may be required to transfer between buses in some cases. Please note that buses can not be cleaned/disinfected during transfers because transfers take place mid route.
Respiratory and hand hygiene are critical strategies that limit the transmission of viruses. Students are encouraged to wash their hands thoroughly and/or use hand sanitizer prior to going to the bus stop.
Students in grades 4 to grade 12 are required to wear a mask, and masks are recommended for students in Kindergarten to grade 3.
Reviewing basic school bus safety rules is also critical, particularly for first time riders. Parents are encouraged to check out the First Rider Program online. We are not able to offer in-person bus rides prior to the start of the school year, but these videos and activities will help your new student prepare for their first bus ride.
We encourage students of all ages to watch the video below to learn more about COVID-19 safety procedures on the bus.
Parents/Guardians must assess their child’s health before sending them on the bus or dropping them off at school. Please use the links below to access resources on COVID-19 safety and a self-assessment tool.
- NWHU School Self Screening Checklist
- Ontario COVID-19 Self Assessment
- Northwestern Health Unit COVID-19 Information
Parents will be required to pick up their child at the bus stop or at the school immediately upon identification of symptoms of COVID-19 and must have a plan in place to do so.
Students who begin displaying symptoms of COVID-19 while on the bus will be isolated on the bus, to the extent possible. The student will be required or asked to wear a mask during the trip to school. The school will be notified of the situation upon arrival and appropriate protocols will be followed.
Students in grades 4-12 are required to wear a face covering while on the bus. Although not required, it is encouraged that students in grades JK-3 wear a face covering while on the bus.
All school buses will be cleaned and disinfected at least twice daily, as recommended by Ministry of Education Guide to Reopening Ontario’s Schools, to provide a transportation environment that is as clean and safe as possible for students and bus drivers.
Cleaning and disinfection of all high-touch surfaces will take place after the morning bus route is completed, and again at the end of the day using a virucidal/bactericidal cleaning spray that is alcohol and bleach free, and safe for use around students.
Bus windows will be opened whenever possible to increase air circulation inside the bus (weather permitting). Students should dress according to the outdoor conditions to ensure a comfortable bus ride. Parents should remind children that it is unsafe to place a hand or any body part out of the window, and that throwing any items out an open window may result in loss of transportation privileges.
Bus drivers will be provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) including disposable masks, and gloves. Drivers will also be provided with reusable face shields to be used as long as doing so does not impact visibility (e.g. during loading/unloading in school zones or while assisting a student).
All bus drivers will be required to self-screen daily prior to coming to work. Any individual experiencing new or worsening cough, fever, or shortness of breath will be asked not to report to work and will follow all recommended public health protocols prior to their return.
Physical distance between family groups including students and parents should be maintained while waiting at bus stops. A distance of 2m between families is suggested.
Stops where there are many students (i.e. apartment buildings, neighbourhood stops) may be divided into 2 or more stops in order to allow space for smaller groups of students to wait. It is important that students arrive at their designated stop at least 5 minutes before the posted stop time.
Once the bus arrives, students should not crowd the front door. Rather, students should line up while maintaining a 2m physical distance between them, where possible. No more than one student should be on the stairs at a time. Students should get to their assigned seat and sit down with their bag on their lap as quickly as possible.
When arriving at the school, students will unload from the front of the bus to the back, one seat at a time, while maintaining physical distance between them. Schools will direct students to make their way to the appropriate location for their class cohorts, as well as any additional safety protocols such as hand washing.
At dismissal time, Schools will maintain class cohorts until it is time to load buses. Class cohorts may be separated into family cohorts upon loading, based on seat assignments.
In the event there is a confirmed case of COVID-19 in a school community (whether the individual is a student, school staff member, or bus driver) the Consortium will work closely with the affected school, school board, and the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) to determine possible exposure on the bus. NWHU will conduct contact tracing based on predetermined criteria and will contact anyone determined to be a close contact at risk of exposure about next steps to take.
Due to the COVID-19 prevention strategies in place (including enhanced daily bus cleaning, mask wearing, respiratory and hand hygiene, assigned seating, and loading/unloading procedures) students not contacted by public health or your school board can continue to ride the bus as usual. All students and staff should use the Government of Ontario’s school screening tool daily before attending school and parents are asked to remind your students frequently of the importance of COVID-19 prevention on the bus as well as in school.
Please visit your school board’s web page for current COVID-19 advisories:
Active forms of travel (for example, walking and cycling) and private transportation by parents and caregivers, are encouraged where possible to ease pressure on transportation demand. Maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle including using active forms of transportation whenever possible also has health benefits for students and supports successful learning.
Safety remains an important consideration when using active transportation, and it is done at the parent/guardian’s discretion. For more information and resources on how to plan a safe and active trip to school we suggest starting with the following links: