Quebec reaches new deal with school bus drivers hours before start of school for thousands

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Quebec has reached a new agreement in principle with school bus companies. The province says it's now up to each school service centre and school board to organize the pick up of children and to notify parents. (David Bell/CBC - image credit)
Quebec has reached a new agreement in principle with school bus companies. The province says it's now up to each school service centre and school board to organize the pick up of children and to notify parents. (David Bell/CBC - image credit)

After much uncertainty for parents, Quebec has confirmed that thousands of students heading back to school today and next week should have buses to get there.

The Education Ministry announced Thursday evening it had reached a new agreement in principle with the federation representing school bus companies.

The agreement specifically targets drivers in the greater Montreal region.

The province said although a deal has been reached, service will resume gradually. It's now up to each school service centre and school board to organize the pick up of children and to notify parents.

The largest school service centre in Quebec, the Centre de services scolaires de Montréal (CSSDM), posted on its website Thursday evening that there will be school bus service as students head back to class today.

"However, since logistical details have yet to be finalized, we encourage parents who are able to do so to provide transportation for their child to school, at least for the first day of school," it wrote.

Three other school service centres and boards — the Pointe-De-L'ile School Board, the Centre de services scolaire de Laval (CSSDL) and the Centre de services scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys (CSSMB) — have reached deals with bus companies.

The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) released a statement Friday, saying bus service will be available when students return to class on Tuesday.

Bus passes for students have been mailed to all families who qualify for transportation services, the statement says.

Lester B. Pearson School Board says they are confident an agreement will be reached. But in an email to parents Friday, the board said it cannot guarantee bus service for the first day of class.

Students with the Eastern Townships School Board also head back to class next Tuesday, but the board said it has yet to hear anything about an agreement.

Last Friday, the Education Minister announced that Quebec and school bus companies had reached an agreement in principle that would ensure safe and reliable transportation for all students for the start of the school year.

The announcement was quickly called into question by school bus carriers in Montreal, the Laurentians and the Montérégie, who refused to sign their contracts with the school centres in their areas.

The main sticking points in negotiations have been salaries for bus drivers as well as the cost of bus maintenance.

Quebec has approximately 11,000 school bus drivers who transport more than 550,000 students every day.