School Bus Ontario
Newsletter - April 29, 2020 - Issue 9
School Bus Ontario (SBO) is a non-profit association providing advocacy, education, and legislative consultation services to the owners of school bus fleets, school boards/transportation consortia and supplier/manufacturer companies across Ontario.
Inside this Edition:
  1. COVID-19 Information and Resources
  2. Ontario Extending Public School Closures Until May 31, 2020
  3. Webinar Offers Tips for Preparing to Resume Service Post-COVID
  4. Parkhurst Transportation Drivers Rev up the Buses for Frontline Worker Parade of Appreciation
  5. NSTA Encourages Inclusion of School Bus Drivers in Proposed Federal ‘Heroes Fund’
  6. Drive-Up Wi-Fi Project Helps Rural Students Get Online
  7. IC Bus Honors Top Dealers for 2019, Launches Podcast
  8. How to Foster Better Working Relationships Even When You’re Quarantined
  9. Safety and Regulatory Publications Available
  10. Upcoming Events
COVID-19 Information and Resources

As members are aware, information about COVID-19 government programs and the status of coronavirus in the province and country is changing daily, sometimes hourly.  School Bus Ontario (SBO) will continue to send special COVID-19 bulletins (separate from this newsletter) with specific information to help, support and guide members.  Everyone is encouraged to review these bulletins, connect to the links which contain further details and reach out to us if you require further assistance or information, particularly about items or activities that may specifically affect your company.  Please be aware that in some cases, members may need to obtain legal or financial advice separate from SBO to address scenarios specific to their own operations.

SBO would also appreciate hearing about any COVID-19 matters that you are involved with in your local area – how you may be assisting or the challenges that you may be encountering.  Sometimes a question or activity that is happening in one area, may also inform or help another area or organization in the province. SBO is here for you – we will get through this together as an association along with our industry partners. Contact: School Bus Ontario (SBO) – 416.695.9965 Ext. 3
Ontario Extending Public School Closures Until May 31, 2020

On April 26th, the Ontario government announced that “publicly-funded schools will remain closed until at least May 31, 2020”.  The government indicated that the extension of school closures is “based on expert advice from the Chief Medical Officer of Health and health officials on the COVID-19 Command Table”.  In addition, the Ontario government previously announced that private schools, First Nation schools, licenced child care centres and “EarlyON” programs will remain closed until at least May 6, 2020 as part of the on-going “Declaration of Emergency” related to COVID-19.

School Bus Ontario (SBO) is continuing to advocate diligently on behalf of all members and is committed to keeping everyone informed as matters progress.  SBO is communicating regularly with the Ministry of Education and has recently submitted a recommendation that a joint industry and government Task Force be established to proactively address COVID-19 related student transportation start-up conditions when schools re-open, particularly under social/physical distancing protocols.

Member questions and comments are always welcome. Please contact School Bus Ontario (Michele O’Bright) at 416.695.9965 Ext. 3 or
Webinar Offers Tips for Preparing to Resume Service Post-COVID

Full Article: School Bus Fleet
Article Date: April 13, 2020

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic significantly impacting pupil transportation, many school district transportation departments have shifted to putting some buses into service to deliver meals, instructional materials, and Wi-Fi to students, trying to employ as many drivers and other staff members as possible.

Still, while working with a skeleton crew on diverted duties, how can pupil transporters plan for the upcoming school year, which is an activity many transportation departments would typically be engaging in at this time of year? And what will the beginning of the new school year look like? What potential changes should be planned for?

Recently, School Bus Fleet hosted a webinar, “Returning to Service Post-COVID: Are You Prepared?” A panel of industry experts — Max Christensen, an Executive Officer for school transportation at the Iowa Department of Education; Derek Graham, a consultant and former state director of pupil transportation in North Carolina; Pam McDonald, Director of Transportation at Orange Unified School District in California; and Michael Shields, Director of Transportation Services at Salem-Keizer Public Schools in Salem (OR) — discussed ways to optimize time during school closures to get ahead on back-burner responsibilities that will still demand attention once schools reopen. Tasks addressed included getting routing, inspections, IEP requests, and testing up to date; scheduling tests during DMV closures, and forming plans for remote work in case it is still required this fall.

Panelists also provided insights on how to deal with protecting drivers, cleaning buses, factoring social distancing into routing plans, how driver shortages may be impacted by school closures, and the possibility of taking students’ temperatures as they board buses.

The webinar was sponsored by connectivity solution supplier Kajeet, school bus market supplier Safe Fleet, and school bus routing software supplier Transfinder.

To listen to the webinar on demand, go here.
Parkhurst Transportation Drivers Rev up the Buses for Frontline Worker Parade of Appreciation

Full Article: Inquite
Article Date: April 27, 2020

Parkhurst Transportation in Belleville (ON) will be revving up the buses to salute our local frontline workers. The family-owned bus company, which was started by Alvin Parkhurst in the 1950s and has operated in Belleville for more than 60 years, will be doing a drive-by parade of appreciation for healthcare workers at hospitals, police officers, firefighters, and first responders who are still on the job during the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of the owner-operators at Parkhurst, Sherry Parkhurst-Barker, says they will also be recognizing other workers who may not get the full attention they deserve during this time. "We're going to go by a lot of the nursing homes and retirement residences, the paramedics building, city hall and all the way up to Front and North Front Streets," said Parkhurst-Barker. "We'll also be going up Dundas Street to support any of the people who are still working. Whether it's the mechanic shops or the restaurants or the grocery stores, we want to make sure that we recognize them and let them know we're thinking about them during this time."

Parkhurst-Barker explained that it was Parkhurst's own staff that took the "leap of faith" in getting the initiative off the ground. "I was still going to work at the office and about six of my staff in their own personal vehicles had made up signs and did a drive through our driveway, by my grandfather's house and my mother's house with their signs saying 'keep smiling, keep working," she explained. "I know how much that made a difference to me while I was at work, that those people would take time out of their day just to let me know they're thinking about me."

Parkhurst-Barker said that's when she and her family came up with the plan to drive through town with the buses to salute the frontline workers. "Parkhurst Transportation has always been strong supporters of our community. If we can do it, we will."

Parkhurst drivers and their families will be making special signs to honour the frontline workers ahead of the event. The fleet of buses will do a trip around the city, starting at the Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre on Cannifton Road. Parkhurst-Barker noted some of the specific stops the cohort of buses will be making include Belleville General Hospital, Hastings Manor, Quinte Gardens, Belmont Retirement Residence, Concentrix, among many others. She said between 40 and 50 people will be a part of the parade, riding in 30 buses.

"I know that just being outside will make a difference," she said. "We've put our drivers in safe spaces. They're in sanitized buses and only the people in their household that can be on the bus with them or they're socially distanced."

Parkhurst-Barker said the response to the initiative from drivers was "outstanding." "I already know what difference it's going to make for them, driving around to show their appreciation. They're making signs at home, and they're excited and working hard to make a difference in the community. I can feel they're happiness and excitement just talking about it. I feel we'll make a really big impact on the community and give people a chance to smile."
NSTA Encourages Inclusion of School Bus Drivers in Proposed Federal ‘Heroes Fund’

Full Article: School Bus Fleet
Article Date: April 22, 2020

The National School Transportation Association (NSTA) has written to the U.S. Senate co-sponsors of the “Heroes Fund” to request the inclusion of school bus drivers as essential workers in the $25,000 hazard pay proposal recently unveiled on Capitol Hill.

“Even though schools may be closed, school bus drivers have answered the call to deliver essential nutrition programs to students who would have normally received them, if they remained in the classroom,” Macysyn said. “Unlike many other professions, school bus drivers do not have the capacity to work from home, so they remain on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. And most of these committed professionals will faithfully return to their vital role of transporting schoolchildren, once this health crisis subsides.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the nation’s education system in unprecedented ways. Many schools have shuttered their doors until the next academic year, while others are closed indefinitely.

In an effort to support their communities and retain trained and experienced drivers, school bus contractors have worked with school districts to deliver food and supplies to students. Many parents are relying on these drivers to deliver meals that the students would have received if they were in school.

For many drivers, this means they are subjecting themselves to an increased risk of exposure to the coronavirus and contracting COVID-19 as they provide critical outreach to hard-hit communities.

NSTA advises that although the previously mentioned efforts place drivers on the front line temporarily, they are highly necessary. When school resumes, however, school bus contractors will likely need incentives to recruit and retain drivers for highly exposed positions on buses with as many as 72 passengers. Many individuals may not want to risk that exposure and others willing to expose themselves to the risks involved should be rewarded.

Senate Democrats continue to rally support for the Heroes Fund, and several have indicated that this provision should be folded into the fourth installment of COVID-19 federal stimulus legislation, according to NSTA.

Additionally, NSTA identified and thanked essential workers such as school bus drivers and monitors by joining the U.S. House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure’s tweetstorm #ToThoseWhoKeepUsMoving. NSTA and its members also thanked school bus drivers on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
Drive-Up Wi-Fi Project Helps Rural Students Get Online

Full Article: CBC News
Article Date: April 17, 2020

Students in a rural Manitoba community who can't get online at home to do school assignments can now access the internet with drive-up Wi-Fi at Landmark Collegiate. The Hanover School Division created a Wi-Fi hotspot by placing an antenna on the outside of the grades 7-12 school. The project, launched recently, allows people in the community to drive into the school's bus loop and log on.

"We knew that in every community there's a need for access to Wi-Fi," said Assistant Superintendent Colin Campbell. "We've … kind of put our heads together to figure out how can we serve our families to help support learning at home?"

Many students face technology challenges in their homes, which range from not having internet at all to having very slow internet or multiple users within a household, Campbell said. Moving the school's Wi-Fi capabilities outside allows students to go to the school to download what they need to work offline, or connect with classmates and teachers. "[There's been] a lot of great feedback from staff, as well, that some of their students that they had a hard time connecting with online, they're able to connect with now," Campbell said.

Chris MacKinnon, the division's Director of Technology Services, said the school has enough bandwidth capability and infrastructure in place to make opening up the Wi-Fi a reality for a minimal cost. "Some of our smaller rural towns may be a little under-serviced with the availability of Internet service," he said. "We were just trying to find ways to leverage the infrastructure that we've already got in place and then be able to provide … some of those small-town students and families access to some high-speed internet at the same time," MacKinnon said.

Saucier said the internet in the community has always been slow, and she's even considered having a second Internet connection installed in her home, but was told the company won't enter her house because of the COVID-19 pandemic. She welcomes the free internet option and sent her oldest child to the school to take advantage of the connection.

One of the terms of using the Wi-Fi is that anyone who is outside the school must maintain proper physical distancing at all times and not gather in groups. "They will have a welcome page that they log onto, they read the social distancing expectations and then they're able to access the Internet service," Campbell said.

The free internet is available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily and is filtered and monitored by the school division. It's a pilot project, but once the division sees how it works, they might expand it to other rural communities that have limited internet.

MacKinnon said providing students with access to high-speed internet can make it easier for them to stay engaged with school work. The division, which has about 8,300 students, also has loaned 5,500 laptops and tablets to high school and middle years students. They have another 1,200 available, MacKinnon said.

While technology isn't the only tool that allows kids to learn at home, it can help provide opportunities to interact and collaborate with their classmates and teachers. "I think that emotional contact is something that is very different, but if we can help engage in different ways with technology to keep them in that contact, it's very important."
IC Bus Honors Top Dealers for 2019, Launches Podcast

Full Article: School Bus Fleet
Article Date: April 24, 2020

IC Bus has announced the winners of its 2019 Dealer of the Year, Pursuit of Excellence, and Diamond Dealer awards, and has launched its own podcast. The school bus manufacturer named Leeds Transit as its 2019 Dealer of the Year, according to a news release from IC Bus. This award focuses on exceptional dealership performance and industry and community leadership.

“I am proud to present Leeds Transit, which is already celebrating the huge milestone of its 50th year in business, with the IC Bus Dealer of the Year award, our highest honor, as they have truly demonstrated everything this award stands for,” said Trish Reed, Vice President and General Manager of IC Bus.

In addition to exceeding many of its performance metrics for the year, Leeds Transit is heavily involved in its community, according to IC Bus. Its members are active in the Ontario School Bus Association and the Ontario Association of School Business Officials, and provide significant support to local school programs.

“Our entire team is full of hardworking, dedicated, and passionate people who truly go above and beyond for their customers and their community,” said Kelly Backholm, dealer principal at Leeds Transit. “I could not be more proud to receive this award on behalf of everyone at Leeds Transit.”

IC Bus also named the winners of its annual Pursuit of Excellence award, the winners of its Diamond Premier award, and its Diamond Dealer award winner. In partnership with IC Bus dealers throughout the U.S. and Canada, these awards pay tribute to companies that demonstrate excellence in improving sales, market share, and customer satisfaction. Winners are also required to meet community service requirements to be eligible for recognition.

The 2019 winners of the Pursuit of Excellence award are:
  • Ward International Trucks LLC.
  • Midwest Transit.
  • Longhorn Bus Sales.
  • Roberts Truck Center New Mexico.
  • Leeds Transit.
  • Maxim Transportation Services Inc.
  • McCandless Truck Center.
  • Summit Bus Oklahoma.
This year’s Diamond Premier winners are:
  • RWC Group Arizona.
  • Worldwide Heritage Inc.
IC Bus also recognized Rush Truck Center Salt Lake City as this year’s Diamond Dealer award winner.

“Each of our winners have made a tremendous impact on their communities, customers, and the school bus industry,” Reed said. “They each play a critical role in helping us achieve our ultimate goal of getting children to and from school safely each day, and I am so proud to have their support in this endeavor.”

Meanwhile, the school bus manufacturer also launched “Next Stop,” a new podcast focused on discussing topics across the school bus industry that aims to drive positive impact across all school bus stakeholders.

The podcast, which can be found on the IC Bus website, Spotify, and Apple Podcast, is hosted by Justin Cocchiola, IC Bus’s marketing manager. In each episode, Cocchiola talks with people from various aspects of the school bus industry about current trends and hot topics related to that guest.

“At IC Bus, we know how important it is to look at the school bus industry from a holistic point of view, and hopefully that comes through in this podcast,” Cocchiola said. “We wanted to make sure the voices of the people that live and breathe the school bus industry every day come through and are represented. This is not meant to be a podcast focused on IC Bus products and services; instead, it’s content focused on bringing awareness to some of the hot topics, trends, and happenings across the school bus industry and how industry stakeholders can help drive a positive impact.”

The podcast launched with three episodes that discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic impacts the school bus industry. In the first episode, Cocchiola speaks with IC Bus’s Reed, who shares her perspective on the pandemic and what role IC Bus and other stakeholders in the industry should play during this time.

In the second episode, Cody Cox, the director of transportation and maintenance at Community Independent School District (ISD) in Nevada, Texas, shares what he and the district are doing to make sure those in their area are being taken care of.

The third episode features Curt Macysyn, executive director of the National School Transportation Association. In this episode, Justin and Curt talk about the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and what it means for the industry and school bus contractors.
How to Foster Better Working Relationships Even When You’re Quarantined

Full Article: Fast Company
Article Date: April 17, 2020

With the majority of North Americans ordered to stay at home, the COVID-19 crisis is disrupting our work routines, as well as our rituals - those behaviors that create connection and shared meaning, and also mark key transitions in our days.

Rituals happen whether you recognize them or not; for instance, there’s the in-person Monday morning meeting or Friday afternoon happy hour at the bar around the corner. Or, among the oldest, the handshake, which dates back 2,500 years to the ancient Greeks.

Recognizing the loss of these rituals - and the “jobs” they performed in our lives - allows us to discover and create new rituals to enhance our virtual lives and experience cohesion, even though we’re separated from our colleagues.

Take the daily commute, which most people probably never viewed as a ritual. Yet it marks the transition from personal life to the workplace and then back again. This calls for a new ritual to take over what had been the commute’s job of demarcating the start and end of the workday. Now, for example, perhaps at the end of the day, closing the laptop and hiding the workspace can signal the workday is over.

For working parents, instituting rituals to signal the start and end of the “school day” (and lunchtime and recess) can help create a structure for children engaged in remote learning. More important than the specific physical actions are the meanings assigned to these behaviors, particularly the social and emotional aspects.

Rituals connect us to a bigger picture of the true values of an organization or society. Engaging in them can improve our work (and other) relationships by turning ordinary moments into extraordinary experiences.

Here are some ways to create new rituals in the virtual workplace.

In-person meetings usually start with small talk, a familiar ritual that forges and reinforces shared bonds. As remote employees shift to conference calls and Zoom meetings, casual conversation is often lost, and with it an important social connection among colleagues. One solution is to ritualize the start of meetings by devoting several minutes for the sole purpose of allowing people to talk about what’s going on in their lives. It needs to be structured - everybody knows what that first 5 or 10 minutes is used for - so the freeform “antistructure” of casual conversation can perform its job of bonding across social distances.

New rituals often emerge spontaneously. What seems fun in the moment suddenly takes on a much deeper meaning. For example, a fixture of the culture at design consultancy Ideo (where the coauthor of this post, David Schonthal, is a senior portfolio director) was the regular Monday lunch meeting everyone attended in person. When that gathering went virtual with dozens of people appearing in a separate “tile” on the screen, a ritualized sign-off occurred one day. Every participant waved at their webcams simultaneously and then disappeared from the screen, one by one. It was such a hit, the goodbye ritual is now performed and recorded every week, then distributed as a reminder of our shared time together until the next weekly meeting.

Rituals are essential for establishing and reinforcing values. Social distancing is an expression of the values of safety and caring for others. While this ritual involves sacrifice by each individual, its job is to promote the greater good.

Many offices have a social side that serves to build camaraderie. Now, in the remote-working world, people are recreating such experiences with virtual happy hours and even virtual birthdays. Some are quite elaborate, such as the virtual happy hour with a featured drink that everyone prepares at the same time, as the designated host explains the history of it.

For rituals to have meaning, they must carry a cost - a small sacrifice of some sort. (Ask anyone who has ever hosted a holiday dinner.) For virtual-world rituals, the cost is the effort and time involved. And that’s exactly what makes these experiences more meaningful. When people recognize the investment required to have a ritual, they are more likely to engage.

The loss of routine and a sense of normalcy can result in disconnection and amplify distance into isolation. By creating and discovering new rituals, we can foster a sense of community to help us cope in these disruptive, uncertain times.
Safety and Regulatory Publications Available

Visit the website at and click on the "STORE" tab from the home page to order the following publications. Or click on the links below and go directly to each order form: Once you have completed the necessary order form, please scan/email it to or fax it to 416-695-9977.
Copyright © 2020 School Bus Ontario (SBO)
All rights reserved.  This publication is intended for the exclusive use of SBO Members.  Reproduction without prior permission is prohibited.

Contact School Bus Ontario (SBO):
3075 Lenworth Drive, Mississauga, ON, L4X 2G3
Tel.416.695.9965 Fax 416.695.9977 
Please address all enquiries and submissions to i Opinions expressed do not necessarily express the opinions of the SBO or its Board of Directors. Nor does acceptance of advertising constitute endorsement.
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School Bus Ontario (SBO) · 3075 Lenworth Drive · Mississauga, ON L4X 2G3 · Canada

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