Update from Parents to Improve School Transportation 8/27/2020
School busing in the time of COVID19 -- Maintaining students’ & workers’ rights/safety Contents:
Lack of communication (they don’t tell us) and collaborative planning (they don’t ask us)
Who is advocating for NYC school busing?
Who is advocating for NYC COVID safety & better schools, with less mention of busing?
Practical OPT info & 2 surveys
If you read nothing else, please read this sentence: Parents/guardians who are asked to remove busing from their child’s IEP because they opted in to remote learning can and should say NO, to avoid the obstacles & delays involved in putting it back when they switch to in-person school.
1. Lack of communication and collaborative planning
Parents/guardians, school bus workers and special education advocates live and breathe the necessity of preparing the vehicles, staff and families for whatever is coming. It’s the end of August and none of us have gotten route news!
We have been talking about this since March, but those who have the budget and decision power have not been applying our suggestions. The bus contracts were dropped. Albany teased us by listing a school bus union leader on their School Reopening Task Force but did not actually invite him to the meetings…
The fact that school busing is a CIVIL RIGHT for students with disabilities, in temporary housing and in foster care and an EDUCATIONAL RIGHT in the state of NY has been kept very quiet while we hear vague promises that the most vulnerable children will be prioritized.
We also hear rumors of car service vouchers or reimbursement which is categorically NOT THE SAME THING AS HAVING A TRAINED ATTENDANT!! Lastly we hear about the DOE exploring how to buy out 3 companies and manage some of the busing in a non profit format but that kind of thing doesn’t happen overnight.
The only useful things we have been able to find out from OPT so far are new email addresses and the logistics of new Exception forms; also our members found out where to look up routes by individual child (see #4 below for all of this). This will be much more relevant if and when the actual school bus yards get up and running, even if it’s mostly to deal with childcare alternatives, in person related services, training & recertification, maintenance & improvements to air flow on the vehicles, or even carrying cargo other than students, as needed for the public good.
PIST supports the effort of the school bus workforce around the country to become eligible for income/benefit protection. Please sign & share: National petition for the CERTS Act.
CARES only covered public bus workers but School Transportation is also an essential public service. An educational service. And a civil right.
2. Who is advocating for NYC school busing?
PIST has been trying to keep our community informed on https://www.facebook.com/pistnyc/ https://twitter.com/pistnyc and http://pistnyc.org/
Please see our blog Covid 19 School Bus safety conversation for links to COVID safety measures being discussed in the city, state, and in contract talks between school bus union ATU 1181-1061 & private companies contracted by NYCDOE.
President Milagros Cancel of Comite Timon NY chapter made time while fighting to save special education law in Puerto Rico to include busing in this Spanish/English radio/video show that features PIST and ATU representatives: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsG6j3PgvI0&fbclid=IwAR3xIM81NfcgeSJXd-048yNsnq6qW7IEncC4zWj3xo0Iuv0vLFAc3LFd2Vg
District 75 Community Education Council’s Busing and Safety Committee have shown concern for all school bus riders, not only students with D75 placements. This Spring & Summer, they have spoken out at citywide meetings and through media like https://twitter.com/AmyTsai14/status/1297404131548823555/photo/1
https://nypost.com/2020/07/11/nyc-reopening-plan-could-leave-90000-students-stranded-with-no-buses/ and hopefully tonight on channel 5…
Advocates for Children gathered various organizations to insist that certain students need daily busing even if schools do not (stay) open:
Sign-On Letter Regarding School Reopening Plans for Students Experiencing Homelessness | August, 2020
AFC spelled out ways to meet the needs of students with disabilities during and after the pandemic (including transportation on page 6) https://www.advocatesforchildren.org/sites/default/files/on_page/special_ed_reopening_recommendations_8.2020.pdf?
We don’t endorse candidates but we do notice that words like busing, school transportation, and special education appear in the messages and meetings initiated by State Sen. Robert Jackson and City Councilmember Mark Treyger so parents might want to inquire with them for updates.
3. Who is advocating for NYC COVID safety & better schools, with less mention of busing?
We see the Alliance for Quality Education (AQENY), and Movement of Rank-and-File Educators (MORE UFT) refusing to settle for inadequate funding, buildings, curriculum or supplies: http://www.aqeny.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/roadmap_FINAL-2.pdf?
There are good pushes for taxing the wealthiest NYers: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/take-action-to-stop-cuomos-school-cuts/
and for delaying/staggering the start of school until everyone is properly prepared https:/buff.ly/3hu9ks/G
These activists, along with students themselves, have organized marches & press conferences and were vocal at meetings run by the PEP, Chancellor and the Public Advocate.
There is less obvious emphasis on busing except from panelist Citywide Council on Special Education member Ellen McHugh around minutes 34-38 here: https://www.facebook.com/NYCPublicAdvocate/videos/362932854738395
The overall United Federation of Teachers was prompted to start a letter campaign after the principals and school aides’ unions spoke out: https://actionnetwork.org/letters/tell-mayor-de-blasio-school-buildings-must-be-safe/
We encourage our members and friends to follow up with these entities and help bring school busing onto their radar. When it comes to safety, and education rights, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Busing can’t be an afterthought.
4. Practical OPT info & 2 surveys
New OPT email addresses for families to use - pass it on:
1) BusingExceptions@schools.nyc.gov for exceptions- and special populations-related questions, and
2) EarlyChildhoodBusing@schools.nyc.gov for Early Intervention- and preschool-related questions.
NOTE: Special populations include Students with Disabilities, in Temporary Housing, in Foster Care, or with Medical/Health condition.
Exceptions include Hazards, Joint custody, Orders of protection.
OPT has 1 person since Fall 2019 who oversees these and also oversees Early Intervention and pre-school transportation, apparently with a total team of 8 people. Waiting for borough director updates if any.
Find exception forms here in multiple languages https://www.schools.nyc.gov/school-life/transportation/bus-eligibility/exceptions-to-transportation-eligibility
Do not expect a route letter!
District and charter school parents: Sign up for your NYC Schools Account (NYCSA) to view information on your child’s transportation services and busing information MyStudent.NYC Your school can provide you with your child's student ID.
Non-public school parents: Please contact your school to get information about your child’s bus information.
DOE employees: visit Student Profile Note: Access to the Student Transportation Search page is no longer available.
General eligibility info slightly altered from A 801 days https://www.schools.nyc.gov/school-life/transportation/bus-eligibility Note there is no middle school exemption for Staten Island so those families need to do Hazard forms one by one.
[Let INCLUDEnyc agency know you have busing on your mind
Deje saber a la agencia INCLUYEnyc que tienes la guagua escolar en mente]
YOUR THOUGHTS ON REOPENING
Take this 3 minute survey and let us know your greatest needs during reopening of schools this fall 2020. https://www.tfaforms.com/4843618
Complete esta encuesta de 3 minutos y háganos saber su mayor necesidad durante la reapertura de las escuelas este otoño 2020. https://www.tfaforms.com/4843789
Survey 2 is meant for those who need supervision for child(ren) during 2-5 days of remote learning per week. That need will grow if schools go all remote, so get on the waiting list...
Learning Bridges is a new program that will provide free child care options for children from 3-K through 8th grade on days when they are scheduled for remote learning. If you are interested in the Learning Bridges program, please complete this survey https://prek4all.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_ac4kZNaIMaixbc9
[We want to point out that this omits high school students who are on remote learning at least part of the time. The problem is there are teens in shelters where legally they can't stay alone until 18th birthday. Also teens thru age 21 with IEPs who may not have respite services in place. Please reply if you know of other surveys/programs for those circumstances.]