My 3-year-old son, Max, was among the thousands of city kids stuck on school buses for hours last week. In my frustration, I tweeted, “You can make it 4,000 and 1 kids who had to deal w/ a school-bus snafu. Max had a 2-hour-plus ride home from preschool. He was over an hour [-and-a-half] late. Susie was upset.”
“Upset” may seem tame, but my wife, Susie, retains her Canadian sensibilities and demeanor, even in situations that would incense native New Yorkers. Nonetheless, she was working the phones with me and the bus company, GVC, Ltd., while e-mailing the city’s Office of Pupil Transportation to locate our boy.
Thankfully, our experience wasn’t anything like that of Lystra Liu, a Queens 5-year-old whose mom told The Post of her grueling 4-hour bus trip that ended with the child being dropped off at the wrong bus stop — in near darkness.
Unlike Lystra, my Max isn’t talking yet. And since he’s unable to verbalize his feelings and experience during his 2-hour-plus ride, we weren’t sure how he was coping with the situation.
A city school-bus hot line has received more than 82,225 complaints about late or no-show buses since the start of classes. That’s a 19 percent increase over the same period last year.
Like many parents, I’m incensed that the bus companies can’t get our kids to and from school on time from the start of the school year. It’s not as though they have to start from scratch or have to plot routes by hand using AAA road maps. There’s (gotta be) an app for that.
I’m happy that Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza says his first allegiance and empathy lies with parents and guardians. This would not be the time to reflexively protect the status quo.
My wife and I, like many New Yorkers, have a transit app on our phone to help us navigate the subways and buses and to receive service-delay alerts. Plus, my Uber app allows me to track the trips Susie takes with the boys. Yet, it’s taken the Department of Education and the Office of Pupil Transportation more than a year and counting to develop a mobile app for parents and guardians to track their children’s school-bus trips or to receive alerts when the buses are delayed.
Coincidentally, Manhattan Councilman Ben Kallos introduced legislation last week requiring that GPS devices be installed on all school buses. He did so at the behest of parents with autistic and other special-needs children.
Kallos’ bill also requires OPT to provide real-time GPS data via an authorized app to parents and school administrators. An app-based program would eliminate having bus drivers and escorts fielding frantic and angry calls from parents and administrators — when they should be focused on getting the children to and from home safely.
Although all special-ed buses and two-thirds of contracted school buses have “Navman” GPS devices installed, the DOE lags behind other school districts that have deployed pupil-transport tracking technology for parents and administrators.
Meanwhile, like other parents who complained, Susie was told that adjusted routes would be forthcoming soon to make Max’s commute shorter. We’re still waiting.
I’m hoping that the DOE gets its act together and expedites a beta test of its mobile app a lot sooner than later. Parents and their children deserve better.