Join the GOOGLE +Rubber Room Community

Saturday, September 19, 2020

No School Buses For NYC Special Education Students

 It is simply outrageous that Mayor de Blasio and Richard Carranza ignore the needs of NY City's most vulnerable students, those kids with physical and mental challenges.

De Blasio is showing his extreme incompetency as a leader in the area of public education which has been under his control since he was elected. Mayoral control was voted on in 2002 as a way for Michael Bloomberg, NYC Mayor at the time, to gain political control over the education budget - already in the $billions. Now the school budget is $34 billion. 

School busing has been a problem for many years.

When one of my daughters was accepted to NEST+M for 6th grade in 2003, I became involved in the Parent Teacher Association, and very soon found a whopper of a ridiculous problem: kids who were accepted to NEST+M but did not live in District 1, a little spot at the southern end of Manhattan, had no free bus service to get to school. The NYC DOE offered bus service only to D1 families.

I live in District 2, and NEST+M is a city-wide G&T school. This means that kids were accepted from all the boroughs, including Staten Island, but they were not able to get any transportation unless they had a car, paid for car service, or took the subway. The nearest subway is pretty far away from NEST +M, which is located at 111 Columbia Street 1 block from the FDR Drive and Bard Early College.  

NEST+M is k-12. What the NYC DOE explained is that kids who go to NEST+M can get a Metrocard to travel to/from school. The argument I made that kindergarten kids should not have to travel by subway, taking parents from their jobs to accompany them. I heard from the bus company that they had to travel alone, that's all they could do.

So I set up a Transportation Committee and found  (1) parents with their own cars who would be willing to take 1 or 2 neighboring kids with them on a daily basis; (2) a car service that offered a low-cost deal round trip, on the condition that a parent adult was always in the car with the driver. 

Hardly a solution! I went to NYC Council to try to get money from the NYC DOE or City budget, all said no way, sorry. Some were polite and others were not. I called all the bus companies in the NYC area, and entered the world of political corruption and extortion, all about money. Although my dad was in politics, I was aghast. Welcome to political manipulation and control of public funding.

I am no longer a parent at NEST, but it seems that NEST+M is doing their own thing on reopening. Good for them!

Betsy Combier
Editor, ADVOCATZ Blog

Deaf, blind, disabled kids left with no school buses despite NYC reopening

by Bernadette Hogan, NY POST, Sept 18, 2020

Hundreds of blind, deaf and disabled children attending independently run special education schools in New York City reopened for in-person classes have been denied bus transportation by the Department of Education, administrators and parents say.

The New York State Education Department’s reopening policy mandates local school districts provide busing to kids outside the public school system, but since early September the city Office for Pupil Transportation (OPT) has been dragging its feet with little explanation, school administrators charge.

The New York Institute for Special Education in the Bronx — which serves roughly 250 kids in grades pre-K through 12 — wanted to reopen for in-person instruction on Sept. 9, coinciding with DOE’s former reopening date of Sept. 10.

But once the City pushed back that date, the Institute revised their plan and set a new reopening date — this past Monday, Sept. 14 —  but without bus services.

The OPT has repeatedly told the Institute’s executive director Dr. Bernadette Kappen and inquiring parents that they can’t offer transportation until a later date, with little explanation, according to emails reviewed by The Post.

“We were prepared to have our children who wanted to begin in-person schooling come on the 9th,” Kappen told The Post.

“Then there was discussion there wouldn’t be transportation this coming Monday on the 21st. The Office of Pupil Transportation said now the transportation isn’t going to start until the 29th. We think it’s coinciding with the New York City Department of Education’s pushback,” she said, arguing it violates state standards that say school districts must provide bus service to schools as part of reopening plans.

“Pupil transportation must be provided to students attending religious and independent schools, charter schools or students whose individualized education program (IEP) have placed them out of district,” states a Sept. 9 memo from state Education Department Interim Commissioner Betty Rosa, which Kappen cited.

“We are not supposed to be tied into [DOE’s] schedule. Whatever date we will tell our school district we will be in session, we should be able to transport,” she added.

“The parents are caught in the middle of this and it really causes a lot of distress because they don’t know what is going to happen with their children and many of them have to go to work. We were worried about the lack of any guidelines.”

Dr. Rebecca Renshaw, the executive director at the Lavelle School for the Blind in the Bronx, which serves roughly 130 kids ages 3 to 21, said parents who opted to send their children for in-person instruction this week have had to physically transport kids from as far as Brooklyn all week — and it’s placing a significant burden on an already vulnerable population.

"The transportation piece has been chaos, or silence — or a little bit of both.”

She said she has been called by at least one bus company that said service may resume this coming Monday, but has been unable to receive confirmation with city education officials despite multiple messages sent over the past day and a half.

“Our students need to be back, we’re ready, we’ve been working since the beginning of June. We’re ready — we need transportation to get them here, we worked really hard and to put it together and then the one part we couldn’t control — transportation — has delayed them from full access to their education,” she added.

The city Department of Education did not immediately return a call for comment.