PIST been advocating for years to improve school bus riding conditions of students with and without disabilities. Ideas put forward in our School Bus Bill of Rights http://pistnyc.org/bill-of-rights.aspx and on other occasions include: fewer riders/stops/schools per bus route; separating early childhood from grades 7-12; HVAC climate control on every vehicle; respect, training, and job security for school bus workers; fast and clear communication with parents in modes they can access; hiring attendants for general education routes; public takeover of private bus companies to regulate quality; hiring more mechanics; parent input to bus routing procedure and bus yards; electric 'green' buses to prevent pollution.
When we, along with school bus unions and special education advocates, have complained that hot, stuffy, crowded, unsupervised buses which stop and linger at multiple school sites undermine the delivery of educational services to children, and aggravate health conditions like asthma, the authorities did not jump up to fix all of that. We can show and prove that we have brought these issues to Office of Pupil Transportation executives, NYCDOE Deputy Chancellors, specific companies, NYS Department of Transportation, and the NYS Office of Civil Rights. Now it is obvious that those same problems can undermine efforts to contain a deadly airborne pandemic.
Even the law says school transportation is an educational service and for students with IEPs, it is a special education related service. It is also a matter of disability civil rights, public health, and traffic safety. City codes require air conditioning on summer school buses but this is not enforced!
The COVID 19 crisis makes all of our demands for better busing more important! We are angry that so little has been done to make any of it a reality up to now. If parents and workers had been in charge of school busing, we would have had a head start in preventing the spread of COVID 19 particles among riders and their communities. Unlike the current authorities and those who run bus companies for the sole purpose of turning a profit, we would have spared no expense to make school transportation safer and more sustainable for all concerned.
We also would have prioritized keeping the thousands of experienced school bus drivers, attendants, and mechanics on payroll through the pandemic. As in other cities, these workers could serve school communities in creative ways during the term, and then shift to the intensive extra preparation that is necesssary before anyone can get on a yellow bus without fearing for their lives.
The lack of busing in Summer 2020 for in-person related services impacted students' ability to receive those services (for example in Staten Island 400 families signed up but only 140 families showed up). Slow or no communication on the status of busing for 2020-21 (especially in press statements by the Mayor, Chancellor, Governor) has made it difficult for tens of thousands of parents to declare whether or not their children can attend school in the coming term. The surprise changes to paperwork procedures for eligibility exceptions will probably affect attendance of students who have a new need for general education busing or subsidized mass transit due to temporary housing or other circumstances see http://pistnyc.org/opt-redefines-gen-ed-school-bus-eligibility.aspx for the forms and see https://www.advocatesforchildren.org/sites/default/files/on_page/NP_sth_reopening_sign_on_letter_8.2020.pdf?pt=1to learn why certain students need daily busing even if schools do not (stay) open.
Link 1: The description of safety measures for school transportation vehicles that NYCDOE, the New York City Department of Education, is submitting to the state. We also heard secondhand that the companies are discussing not UV5 wands but foggers that spray the bus every 24 hours. https://www.schools.nyc.gov/school-year-20-21/district-school-reopening-plan-submission-to-nysed/transportation
Link 2: The promises NYSED, the New York State Education Department, has made to the public around special education and transportation are on pages 7 and 9 respectively of this document; pages 60-63 deal with school bus protocols. Please note that throughout the document, hand sanitizer is mandated to be 60% alcohol, allowed in certain quantities in class, but school bus workers are not supposed to have their own little bottle. http://www.nysed.gov/common/nysed/files/programs/reopening-schools/nys-p12-school-reopening-guidance.pdf
Link 3: ATU Amalgamated Transit Union local 1181-1061 is bargaining with companies this month on these points for school bus covid safety https://atu1181.org/news/atu-local-1181-1061-proposals-for-impact-bargaining-6-22-20/