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School Bus Information

Empty Seat Applications Due September 20, 2019
Posted on 09/10/2019

Empty Seat (Seat Availability) Provision

ALL empty seat applications and approvals go through OSTA

Where school bus routes have been established and there are empty seats on a bus, students may be provided transportation even though their distance from the school is within the Walk Zone. OSTA processes all applications and approves seat assignments for both the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board and the Ottawa Catholic School Board.

When assigning students to empty seats, OSTA does not consider applications on a “first come, first serve” basis.  Approval is based on knowledge of the family situation as well as consideration of the following criteria:

  • Grade level (priority given to younger Kindergarten students);
  • Distance from school (farthest to closest);
  • Child care / daycare provider needs;
  • Siblings attending the same school;
  • Cross-boundary students have the last priority, but may still apply for an empty seat

There will be no changes to bus stops or routes for empty seats.  Students assigned to empty seats may lose their seat if an eligible student is assigned to the bus, the student misbehaves, or there are changes to the route for efficiency.  Please refer to T1 Access to Empty Seats policy and procedure for more information   Empty Seat Provision

Step 1 – Complete the application 2019-2020 Application Form

The deadline for applications for transportation starting in October of each school year is the third Friday in September. Applications are also accepted throughout the year.

Completed applications should be sent by email to emptyseat@ottawaschoolbus.ca , or by fax to 613-224-8840.  Your school may also accept hardcopy applications that will eventually be forwarded to OSTA.

Step 2 – OSTA Application Review

Throughout the summer and September, OSTA staff reviews applications and prioritizes students based on guidelines. Hundreds of applications are often received at the deadline.  OSTA takes the last week of September to review these applications and re-prioritize students. Typically, OSTA receives 5000+ applications per year.

Step 3 – OSTA Seat Search

By the start of October, the transportation system has stabilized, eligible students have been assigned to buses and bus loads have been balanced to avoid unsafe overloads.  At this time, OSTA staff also has the capacity to begin the next phase of seat allocations.  Based on prioritized lists of students, OSTA staff researches potential routes and stops to accommodate requests.

Step 4 – OSTA Seat Assignments

Actual seat assignments may begin the second week of October.  Of 5000+ applications for empty seats, OSTA is often able to find seats for 3500 students.  Due to this high volume of requests, and the work required to find and assign a seat for each student, not all seat assignments can occur the first or second week of October.  We recognize parents are anxious to get their children’s transportation sorted out, and we work diligently to get seat assignments done as quickly as possible.

Step 5 – Parent Web Portal/Bus Stop Finder

Once the student has been assigned to an empty seat, all route and stop information is available online.  We recommend parents check this portal on a regular basis to find their child’s information.  OSTA will post notices online and via its communication channels when empty seats have been completed, by school.

Please do not put your child on a bus until the empty seat assignment has been completed. This is for your child’s own safety as their name would not be on any driver manifests until that time.

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