BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — School districts across Western New York are preparing to welcome students back to the classroom on Tuesday. Buffalo Public School parents say they are hopeful for the new year, but are concerned about transportation, health and safety for students.
“Busing I think is the number one concern for everybody,” Edward Speidel, president of the District Coordinating Parent Council (DPCC) and co-chair of Special Education Parent Advisory Committee (SEPAC), said.
Getting students to and from class is a priority a priority for parents who say they are trying to plan ahead.
“It’s concerning because I have a son with autism. His bus ride to school is normal, but his ride home is an hour. Tomorrow its going to be interesting. He knows every stop and everything. It’s probably going to be a bad day for him,” Speidel said.
There is a nationwide bus driver shortage, which is affecting how many bus routes the district is able to run. During the last Board of Education meeting in August, a new, four-pronged transportation plan was laid out, including reimbursing parents to transport their children, creating staggered school start times, combining routes and giving families NFTA bus passes. By combining routes and staggering start times, 14 bus routes have been eliminated.
“If the parents can get their kids to school early that will help. They’re also not going to penalize any kids for missing school or attendance lateness for busing,” Speidel said.
A source close to the school district says up to 3,000 students could be without transportation this school year. Schools are opening their doors early to accommodate for students who are dropped off or take an early morning bus. Some students could get picked up as early as 6:30 a.m. and get picked up from school as late as 6:15 p.m. Early pick-ups may not be the first kids to get dropped back at home.
Kim Hernandez’s daughter is planning to board the bus 6:20 a.m. on the first day of school.
“She will get up early if she needs to. She will go to bed early if she needs to. She will be on time. She does not like to be late. She will wait outside if she needs to. I’m a little bit worried about her hanging out outside over there,” Hernandez added.
Learning loss because of the pandemic is another concern for parents, who say Buffalo’s students have fallen even further behind.
“In Buffalo Public Schools, our kids were already behind and we were dealing with a lot of inequities compared to our suburban counterparts. That’s exacerbated now,” Jessica Bauer Walker, president of the Buffalo Public Schools Community Health Worker Parent Association, continued.
Parents are also worried about safety in schools and on the bus. Parent leaders say communication with children is key and that parents should address behavior problems at home. They also recommend talking to the schools about them if necessary.
“We have a long way to go. The rates of suspensions in our schools and the lack of preventative support. We can’t just put bodies in the building. It really takes a whole school, whole community, whole child approach,” Bauer Walker continued.
All three parent leaders say they are encouraged by the leadership style of Superintendent Dr. Tonja Williams and hope to collaborate with her moving forward. They also say if you are concerned about your child’s yellow school bus route, you should download the First View app where you can track the bus in real time.