NYC Special education schools say DOE lacks solid transportation plan for students

Some special education schools say the city’s Department of Education hasn't provided a solid transportation plan for its students, just days away from the first day of class.

News 12 Staff

Sep 4, 2021, 2:34 AM

Updated 962 days ago


Some special education schools say the city’s Department of Education hasn't provided a solid transportation plan for its students, just days away from the first day of class.
The classrooms at the New York Institute of Special Education may not be as full as they should be come Sept. 8 when classes are scheduled to start.
Officials say this is due to transportation issues for the city's special education schools.
These schools fall under the DOE for transportation, but it is not providing door-to-door school bus transportation for students until city schools reopen on Sept 13.
"We asked what the problem was, they pretty much just said 'operational challenges.’ I'm not sure what that means,” says Dr. Bernadette Kappen, executive director of the New York Institute for Special Education.
Dr. Kappen says on top of the pandemic, parents have to worry about how their kids are getting to school.
"You have to disappoint the families and the parents. I'm sure many parents were hoping to go back to work and the timing of this is just not good,” she says.
Parent Dilenys Valdez says she doesn't know what she is going to do come Sept. 8.
“I work 9 to 5:30, and I just started a new job, so for me to be on probation and tell my boss. 'I can't make it to work,' I don't know what's going to happen,” Valdez says. “I'm thinking 'Who can I call?' 'Who's going to be able to help me?'”
With the first day of school quickly approaching, parents and administrators say the DOE still does not have a plan for the typical door-to-door transportation, and they say the options that they've provided are not feasible for the students the school services.
"They offered another option called 'curb,' it's like the yellow taxi app and the district will reimburse,” Dr. Kappen says. “The parents that come to our school— there's no way that they can pay for a taxi round trip from Brooklyn to the Bronx.”
The DOE says there's other alternatives for transportation other than getting a reimbursement, saying in part, “We’re providing private car service for eligible non-public school families to ensure they have safe, reliable and free transportation to and from school for the few days that these schools are open before the NYC DOE school year begins…”
The DOE adds, “In addition to car services, reimbursements, etc., we’re also actively working with bus companies on this and are trying to provide busing services for impacted students. Students with accessibility needs can request a vehicle that accommodates those needs."
Dr. Kappen says the private car service doesn't cut it because you need an adult who is 18 or older to ride with the special needs children to and from the schools.
"They're not transported home, then they have to come back and go back in the taxi. Not feasible again,” she says. “You can imagine, if you're totally blind and you're in the first grade and you're learning brail, it's hard to learn that from home. They need to be here, and they need to be here for their social interaction skills as well."
The New York Institute of Special Education services around 250 kids, and the school says the transportation issue will affect a little over 100 children at this school.
School officials say they believe most families in the special education schools will just wait until Sept. 13 to send kids back.

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