The Rainy River District Transportation Services Consortium (RRDTSC) safely transports 1,963 students on 41 buses, over 5,807 kilometres, for 17 schools every day during the school year. With the summer soon coming to an end, the consortium is bustling to prepare bus routes before the school year begins.
“That would be 15 days, 11 hours, and 56 minutes [until school starts],” said Shaun Egan, transportation officer for RRDTSC at the time of the interview. He jokes that his teacher-friends often “have some words” for him whenever they see his countdown posted on social media.
“No teacher wants to think about that first day of school,” Egan says.
Unlike school board staff and teachers, those who work for the transportation services must work during the summer. Plenty of work goes into finalizing bus routes so students arrive at school on time and back home safely.
Egan says people have been forced to pay attention to the school year coming up since last week, close to the time of the deadline to submit transportation bus changes.
The deadline to submit requests for bus changes, including new pick-up and drop-off locations, is due on Wednesday, August 16, at 4 p.m. Forms can be found on the consortium website and submitted by mail, dropped off at 552 Second St. E., Fort Frances, faxed to 807-275-4975, or emailed to email@example.com.
Although the forms were released earlier this year in May, students sent home with a form and a memo attached to give to their parents, Egan says people have only started submitting their change requests around last week.
“I’d say you got about … a dozen emails first thing in the morning, and then probably another 15 or 20 faxes that are coming through,” he says. “People are seeing the change deadline and then panic-time comes and the first week of school, unfortunately if you don’t have it in by the deadline, you have to find another way for your student to get there.”
Based on his experience, Egan also anticipates a lot of forms being submitted the first week of school.
“It happens every year,” he says. “I usually tally it up every year. Last year, we had 112 [forms submitted] prior to the deadline.”
Once the forms are submitted, sometimes adding up to over 300 changes for the consortium to make, Egan says they will focus on creating the “runs” and distributing the information out to the operators.
Bus routes will continue to change almost daily once new information comes in, although the deadline ensures a smoother transition to the new year as requests received after the deadline will not be in place for the first week of school. If bus change information is submitted by the deadline, bus drivers are given the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the run ahead of time.
“It breaks the chaos because the first couple of weeks of school is chaotic,” Egan says. “If they have their run fine tuned from, say, August 17, then they have that opportunity to have two weeks or more to have their routes solidified.”
Lastly, Egan emphasizes the importance of safety and reminds the community to be diligent when driving.
Motorists are encouraged to pay attention to flashing lights on the bus and watch for children who are crossing the street, and should be aware of students who may take other modes of transportation to school.
“Whether it’s a skateboard, rollerblade, bike — whatever it may be with the nice weather. Students aren’t taking the bus right away so safety is number one,” he says.