The COVID-19 pandemic is making life that much more difficult for staff with the Northwestern Ontario Student Services Consortium.

Today and yesterday, Kenora’s KN44 route had to be cancelled due to a bus driver shortage, but NWOSSC Manager Dan Ridgway says they’re working with their partners to ensure this won’t be a regular occurrence.

“This week a number of factors came together that resulted in not being able to cover every run. We’re working with our bus operator partners to make sure that this doesn’t become a regular occurrence.”

“We’re fortunate to have a great team of drivers who are dedicated to getting students to school safely every day,” said Ridgway, in a prepared statement.

Ridgway says the cancellation wasn’t directly-linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, as the region and Ontario as a whole has seen a bus driver shortage over the last 5 years, but the pandemic has heightened the issue.

He says some of the NWOSSC’s regular drivers decided not to return this school year, and more buses and drivers are needed to reduce the load on the area’s buses as much as possible.

This is in additional to enhanced cleaning measures, assigned seating plans, the wearing of personal protective equipment by students and staff and new loading and unloading procedures to allow for social distancing.

Ridgway adds that the NWOSSC are recruiting and hiring, and anyone interested is asked to contact them at 1-866-860-7770.

The last reported route cancellation due to a driver shortage in the region was in January of 2018 in the Sioux Lookout area.