Transportation Overview & School Bus Rules
Niagara Student Transportation Services (NSTS) is following the guidance for student transportation from the Ministry of Education and Niagara Region Public Health, and in some cases we are exceeding this guidance, including:
- School vehicles will operate at full capacity. We have made every effort to balance capacity on buses as to not exceed two students seated per bench. In some cases this was not possible and Kindergarten to Grade 3 students may be assigned to sit three to a seat.
- NSTS requires all students intending to ride the bus to Opt-In to receive service which will help us understand the actual ridership numbers compared to capacity and to assign seats. Parents/guardians are required to sign-in to the parent portal and complete the Opt-In to Transportation form. The form is the same for families to notify us they prefer to Opt-Out of Transportation so we know not to assign your child(ren) a seat. NSTS will also accept your Opt-In or Opt-Out intention via telephone, 905-357-6787, or email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Students who Opted-In to receive transportation for the 2020-21 school year were automatically Opted-In for the 2021-22 school year and are not required to complete this process.
- Face coverings for students in Grades 1 to 12 are required on school vehicles. Students in Kindergarten are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings on school vehicles. Schools will notify NSTS if there is a student with a face covering exemption and NSTS will notify the bus driver of this exemption.
- Prior to departing from home for the bus stop, students must complete their school’s COVID-19 self-assessment and only proceed to the bus stop if the self-assessment supports in person school attendance.
- Students are to arrive at the designated bus stop 5 to 10 minutes prior to the scheduled time and be visible to the bus driver. Receive direct notifications if your bus is delayed by downloading the BusPlanner Delays App or subscribe in the parent portal to receive direct email alerts.
- Students are required to board the bus one at a time, to only enter the bus when the stairwell is clear of other students, and to use the handrail if required for safe boarding of the bus.
- Hand sanitizer will be available on every bus for student use. The hand sanitizer will be located on the right side on the top of the stairs. Students are asked to arrive at the bus stop with clean hands, and if needed, use the hand sanitizer provided.
- NSTS, schools and bus drivers will establish and enforce seating plans for every bus run, seating students residing within the same household or the same homeroom/grade together as much as possible. The seating plan will be documented and referenced in the event contract tracing is required. Seat rows and bench seats are labelled. Seat rows are numbered (1, 2, 3) and seat benches are lettered ABC or DEF. Students must sit in the seat row and on the bench seat designated on the seating plan as communicated by the bus driver and the school. NSTS is leaving the bench seat of the bus behind the driver unassigned in our seating plans.
- Students are to sit in the seat properly, facing forward and eating and drinking on the bus is prohibited
- The bus driver will open select windows on the bus prior to the first bus stop to achieve ideal ventilation on the bus. A student must ask a driver for permission to open a window, and if permission is granted, must not open the window more than half-way.
- Bus drivers/monitors will receive face masks and eye protection and will be trained on proper use guidelines. There may be bus drivers/monitors who have a face mask exemption and NSTS will document these exemptions in our files.
- Bus drivers are trained on proper disinfecting guidelines and will disinfect the handrail, seat tops and seat backs twice per day, or more frequently if necessary. Students are requested to help keep the bus a clean and safe environment.
- NSTS and schools will be required to share bus route, seating plan and student information with Niagara Region Public Health, if required, to complete contact tracing.
- NSTS encourages active forms of school travel, i.e. walking and biking, to and from school to reduce vehicle traffic in school zones. Visit the Walk Zone section of this website for resources to support student pedestrian and cycling safety.
Bus drivers will take initial corrective actions if a student is not following the school bus rules, and if a student does not correct the behaviour of concern, the driver will report to the school administrator. Failure to resolve the concerns with a specific student behaviour may result in the withdrawal of their transportation services.
Opt-In or Opt-Out to Transportation
The NSTS secure parent portal is open with preliminary transportation arrangements for all students eligible to receive service.
Parents/guardians/students must notify NSTS that they intend to use transportation for the 2021-22 school year in order to receive service. Students that Opted-In in the 2020-21 school year are automatically Opted-In for the 2021-22 school year.
Please sign-in to the parent portal and complete the Opt-In or Opt-Out of Transportation Form. We will also receive your Opt-In or Opt-Out intention over the phone, 905-357-6787, or via email, email@example.com.
If we do not receive this notification specific to a student, NSTS will work with bus drivers and schools, and we will remove transportation in September if a child is not using the service assigned.
We understand parents will make the final decision of whether they decide to opt-in or opt-out of using the school bus. To recognize families may change their mind or have their circumstances change where they may decide to change their opt-in or opt-out status, we have created a weekly process to accommodate changes using a form available in the parent portal.
Authorized Riders Only
Only riders authorized by NSTS are allowed to ride the bus. Bus drivers are authorized to transport only students listed by NSTS on the passenger manifest and seating plan to ride their bus.
Each Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. transportation arrangements for the following week will be available in the portal. If arrangements are not listed in the parent portal on the Wednesday, please make arrangements to get your child(ren) to and from school for the following week.
Process and Expectations for Changing Addresses or New Registrations
For address changes and registration, please contact your child’s school when it reopens. Important deadlines for the first two weeks of school:
- WEEK 1: The deadline to make address changes at the school and to notify NSTS of your intention to use the service is 3:00 p.m. on Monday, August 30. For changes made by this deadline, every effort will be made by the school and NSTS to have transportation effective the first week of school.
- WEEK 2: The deadline to make address changes at the school and to notify NSTS of your intention to use the service is 3:00 p.m. on Friday, September 3. For changes made by this deadline, every effort will be made by the school and NSTS to have transportation effective the second week of school.
In the event that schools and NSTS experience a high volume of change requests and are not able to process all requests, parents/guardians may be required to make plans to get their child(ren) to and from school for the first two weeks of school.
Timelines to Make Changes During the School Year
This year it will take 7 to 10 days to make a change to your child's transportation. Changes will be effective each Monday and will remain consistent for the entire week.
All information received by NSTS by 3:00 p.m. each Monday, whether it is an address change for pick-up and/or drop-off information we receive through the school, or your circumstances change and you decide to opt-in to receive service through the form in the parent portal, transportation arrangements will be updated in the parent portal each Wednesday morning by 10:00 a.m. for routes effective for the following week.
NSTS is not authorized to change addresses. Address changes must be made through your school and NSTS automatically downloads these updates from the school daily.
If you require to change your child(ren)’s pick-up or drop-off address, or to register your child(ren) to a new school, please make arrangements to get your child(ren) to and from school for the first, and potentially the second, week of school. Student transportation during COVID-19 requires NSTS to take additional safety measures to comply with public health requirements and we appreciate parents/guardians having a plan for the first two week in the event the school and NSTS are not able to process all changes to start the school year.
Please note that NSTS will not accept requests for bus stop location changes or exceptions to the eligibility policy until October 1, 2021, at the earliest to permit time to ensure all eligible students who Opt-In to the bus are assigned to the bus and seating plan.
Kindergarten Transportation and First Ride
Kindergarten families, or families without an Ontario Education Number (OEN), will not be able to log-in to the NSTS parent portal. We emailed and/or mailed letters with temporary PIN numbers for those families to use as the OEN to sign-in to the parent portal. If you do not receive this communication by Friday, August 20, please call or email NSTS. After completing authentication questions to verify the caller's identity to match our student record, we will supply your PIN over the phone or via email.
Reviewing basic school bus safety rules is also critical, particularly for first time riders. First Ride will be online this year! Safety information and videos are available in the Bus Zone of this website.
NSTS is here to support your family have a good start to the school year. We appreciate your patience while we process a large volume of changes and family outreach.
If you need to contact NSTS, we request that you select one of the following ways:
- Sign-in to the parent portal and view the transportation arrangements made for your child(ren) is the best place to start. There are tools in the portal, including forms, that are a great tool if you require help from NSTS. The forms in the portal generate a reference number.
- To reach NSTS by telephone, call 905-357-6787. NSTS has help remote from our office this year. If they are not able to answer your question, they will generate a form to NSTS which is assigned a reference number. Please note these phone calls are recorded for quality assurance purposes.
- You may email firstname.lastname@example.org. This is a great way to correspond with NSTS and reduces playing phone tag.
- When schools re-open, they too can support your questions. Schools are the first point of contact if you have concerns.
We strive to provide a 24-hour response time to phone calls in non-emergency situations. During back to school when volume is very-high, we make every effort to respond within 48-hours to non-emergency situations.
NSTS will not accept requests for bus stop location changes or exceptions to the eligibility policy until October 1, 2021, at the earliest.