SUDBURY -- The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted bussing in Greater Sudbury, worsening a shortage of drivers which has cancelled some routes in the Sudbury area, says the Sudbury Student Services Consortium.

"This week we have 14 routes that are cancelled in our area, which is better than 25 during the first week and 19 the second week," said Renee Boucher, the executive director of the Sudbury Student Services Consortium.

Although the situation is improving with more drivers being trained, there are still cancellations and delays.

"The challenges that we are now seeing are drivers who are symptomatic, so they wake up in the morning and they have a runny or they have a sore throat, or their own children do. So we are now trying to double up on runs," said Boucher.

Boucher also encourages parents to check the Consortium's website daily for word on delays and cancellations. All students are now required to wear masks on the bus, including students in kindergarten to Grade 3.

We talked to a bus school bus driver who has been behind the wheel for five years about how different it is this year.

"Now we have all of our cleaning supplies on the buses, there is a hand sanitizer for the driver, as well as a separate hand sanitizer for the children," said Roxanne Oswald.

Recruits new drivers

"We also have our cleaning products, and we do sanitize the bus, the entire bus, twice a day."

Oswald is also a school bus driver recruiter for Northway Bus Lines, and encourages people to consider the job.

"If you are looking for a part-time job, honestly school bus driving is more rewarding than you can imagine," she said. "The smiles on the little kids' faces, the stories they tell you."

Oswald said students are being very receptive and respectful about wearing masks on board the bus.

"We all have masks that we wear," she said. "I also have a box of masks in case one of the students forgets theirs at home. We also have a face shield for when the large groups of children are coming on and off the bus."

The Sudbury Student Services Consortium oversees 400 school bus routes in Greater Sudbury, Espanola and Manitoulin.