2020-21 Back to School Transportation Plan

Please note we have updated the plan below on Thursday, September 3.
Updates are in red font.

We have made every effort to include our detailed back to school transportation plan on this webpage. We know it may seem overwhelming.  

We understand you have an important decision to make to have your child(ren) ride the school bus this year, and we hope this detailed information helps you with making this decision. 

Guide to reopening Ontario's schools for Transportation  

Niagara Student Transportation Services (NSTS) is following the guidance for transportation from the Ministry of Education and Niagara Region Public Health, and in some cases we are exceeding this guidance, including:   

  • NSTS encourages active forms of school travel, and by Monday, August 31 we will have a dedicated webpage and resources to support student pedestrian and cycling safety.   

  • Elementary buses will operate close to capacity (we have made every effort to limit no more than 2 students assigned to a seat). Secondary buses will operate closer to half capacity aligned with cohort attendance. The majority of routes will remain similar to last year and our goal was to reconnect bus drivers and families this year as much as possible. 

  • 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. 

  • Face coverings for students in Grades 4 to 12 are required on school vehicles. Students in Kindergarten to Grade 3 are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings on school vehicles.   

  • NSTS will establish seating plans for every bus run, seating students residing within the same household or the same homeroom together as much as possible (to start the school year, until homerooms are settled, students will be seated by grade if they do not reside with another student assigned to the bus. The seating rows are labelled with a number, 1, 2, 3..., and the seat row behind the driver is labelled ABC and behind the stairwell is labelled DEF. The labels are located above the window for the seat bench). NSTS is leaving the first seating row of the bus unassigned in our seating plans.   

  • The bus driver will open select windows daily for air flow and ventilation.   

  • Bus drivers/monitors will receive face masks and a face shield, and will be trained on proper use guidelines.   

  • Hand sanitizer will be available on every bus for driver/monitor and student use. (The hand sanitizer is mounted on the dash at the top of the stairs on the right side.) 

  • NSTS will disinfect buses more frequently. We have updated our school bus rules, calling on students to help us keep our buses clean, and bus hand rails will be disinfected between every school run and seat tops and backs twice daily. Bus drivers will be trained on proper disinfecting guidelines.   

  • NSTS will work with school boards to accommodate students with identified needs, i.e. exemption from wearing a face covering. (Schools will notify NSTS if a child is exempt from wearing a face covering, NSTS will communicate to drivers on the route manifest.)   

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. 

Register for Back to School Transportation  

NSTS will open the parent portal on Monday, August 17 at 10:00 a.m., 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 2020-2021 school year in order to receive service. If we do not receive this notification specific to a student, we will remove transportation by Wednesday, August 26 (we did not remove transportation yet and left students on the bus for the first week of school. We need to know by Monday, September 7 at 3:00 p.m. otherwise we will remove transportation for the second week of school).   

You can provide us this notice in one of 2 ways:   

  1. SCHOOL BOARD QUESTIONNAIRE: School board questionnaires include a section to notify NSTS if your child(ren) will require transportation. This information will be transferred to NSTS and your child's transportation record will be updated. (This method of notice is not longer open, please use the NSTS parent portal.)  

  2. NSTS PARENT PORTAL - When the school board questionnaire closes, a form will be available in the NSTS parent portal to complete to update your intention to opt-in or opt-out to receive transportation. 

Final transportation arrangements for the first day of school will be posted in the NSTS parent portal on Wednesday, September 2 by 10:00 a.m (delayed by one day)

Final transportation arrangements for the second week of school will be posted in the NSTS parent portal on Wednesday, September 9 by 10:00 a.m. 

NSTS will not accept requests for bus stop location changes or exceptions to the eligibility policy until October 1, 2020 at the earliest.  

Address Changes for Back to School Transportation 

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 31, 2020. For changes made by this deadline, every effort will be made 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 4, 2020 (We have extended Opt-In notice to NSTS until 3:00 p.m. on Monday, September 7 if received through the parent portal for transportation effective the second week of school).  For changes made by this deadline, every effort will be made 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 for transporting their child(ren) until service can be arranged. 

 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 to ride their bus.  

NSTS ensures consistent communication to everyone responsible for student transportation through our secure portals, meaning if you do not see transportation arrangements for your child in the parent portal on Wednesday, September 2 (delayed by one day), the bus driver also will not have your child listed on their passenger manifest.  

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 to and from school for the following week.  

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.  

Address changes are made through your school and NSTS automatically downloads these updates from the school daily. 

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 will email and/or mail letters with temporary PIN numbers for those families to use as the OEN sign-in within the next week. If you do not receive this communication by Friday, August 21, please call NSTS. After completing authentication questions to verify the caller's identity to match our student record, we will supply your PIN over the phone. (Newly registered Kindergarten students will have a PIN available, please call NSTS for this information.) 

Reviewing basic school bus safety rules is also critical, particularly for first time riders.  First Ride will be online this year! We will have the First Ride webpage available by Monday, August 31, 2020 to help families and students prepare for their first ride on a school bus. Schools may still book a First Ride program, but we will not hold a community event this year.  

Updated School Bus Rules 

Keeping the bus clean is a shared responsibility, and we encourage students to follow these additions to the school bus rules:   

  • 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. Students need to arrive at the bus stop with their own mask/face covering.   

  • A daily screening assessment of each child's health must be completed for each child prior to arriving at the bus stop. Parents/guardians must check each student for symptoms each morning before boarding the school bus.

  • Parents/guardians and students are to maintain physical distance from others at the bus stop and arrive 5 to 10 minutes before your scheduled bus stop time.   

  • Students are encouraged to arrive at the bus stop with clean hands, and if their hands become soiled at the bus stop, to use the hand sanitizer at the top of the stairs after entering the bus.   

  • Students are required to board the bus one at a time, and to only enter the bus when the stairwell is clear.   

  • Students are encouraged to use the handrail as they enter and leave the bus. The handrail will be disinfected between school runs.  

  • Students are encouraged to limit their touch points on the bus to keep the bus clean. Seat tops and backs will be disinfected twice daily.   

  • NSTS is required to implement a seating plan for every bus run, and students are expected to sit in their designated seat as communicated by the bus driver.   

  • The bus driver will open select windows daily for air flow. Students must not adjust windows or talk outside the windows.   

  • On the bus, students should remain seated, facing forward and in their seats for the entire ride.

  • NSTS will be required to share bus route, seating plan and student information with Public Health, if required, to complete case contact tracing.   

School bus rules and disinfecting protocols will be updated as required, as we continue to strive to provide the safest bus ride possible for students. Please check back on Wednesday, September 2 for final information that will be effective on the first day of school.   

Contacting NSTS   

We had our support team start early this year to help us answer your phone calls. Unlike previous years, this support is being provided remotely, and if they are unable to answer your question, we have implemented a tracking system for all incoming calls to help NSTS staff respond as promptly as possible. Please note these phone calls are recorded for quality assurance purposes.   

We strive to provide a 24-hour response time to phone calls in non-emergency situations. In the event that we experience a higher than anticipated call volume, we will make every effort to respond within 48-hours to non-emergency situations.