Pols pushing DOE to find alternative solution
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Parents of the city's school children had better enjoy their Christmas vacation because it could be the last no-stress period of time they have for a long time.
After the start of the New Year, parents could face the prospect of having no school bus service for their kids.
The Atlantic Express Bus Company, which covered 1,600 school bus routes in New York, approximately 25 percent of the routes, declared bankruptcy last month and will shut its doors on Dec. 31.
That means the company’s yellow school buses will not be on the road when school resumes on Jan. 2.
The company’s woes could leave as many as 40,000 public and private school students stranded with no way to get to and from school, according to state Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Borough Park-Flatbush).
Felder is the chairman of senate’s Children and Families Committee, as well as the chairman of the New York City Education Subcommittee.
Felder said that he and two of his colleagues, Assemblyman Dov Hikind (D-Borough Park) and Councilman David Greenfield (D-Borough Park-Midwood-Bensonhurst) are working to ensure as smooth a transition as possible for students.
Felder has been in regular contact with officials at the New York City Department of Education’s Office of Pupil Transportation.
Felder said officials have assured him they are committed to finding other options for students, including assigning the routes to other companies, providing Student MetroCards, or reimbursing parents of special needs students who send their children to school with a private car service.
“This situation is well-beyond finger pointing and the blame game,” Felder said. “The Department of Education and the Office of Pupil Transportation must come up with an immediate resolution to head off this potential crisis. The education of innocent children, particularly those with special needs, should not be disrupted over something as basic as not having an alternate way to get to school."
Hikind expressed optimism that a viable solution could be worked out. “With the departure of Atlantic Express, we are nevertheless optimistic that the remaining bus companies will be able to absorb the bus routes and continue servicing our community with little or no disruption,” he said
The New York Daily News reported that Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio is aware of the tense situation and is poised to work on a solution. He will take office on Jan. 1.
Greenfield said the school bus company strike that took place last year left a bad taste in parent’s mouths. “After last year's crippling strike, we cannot afford to go through a situation again where our children lose their school bus service,” he said.
“The city must take all of the necessary steps before school resumes after the holiday break to ensure that no child has their education disrupted as a result of a bus company's financial problems," Greenfield said.