Brooks rode a yellow school bus for two years when he was in Pre-kindergarten, and I can still vividly recall the bureaucracy.
Summoning the same kind of energy required for fighting insurance claims and misappropriated bank fees, my husband and I spent hours on the phone trying to have rational conversations with clerks who would argue that the only way to prove your child's bus route was too long was to make him ride it. Even if the route included three boroughs, no one would make the logical leap that this route would take more than the requisite one-hour maximum. And when we argued that this had to be a solid 90 minutes even without making stops and without traffic, the administrators felt compelled to remind us they were not a taxi service.
Each year started out in this frustrating fashion, and then within a month or two, after parents and school administrators spent untenable amounts of time—the kind of time you'd do almost anything to get back—things would settle down. They'd inevitably shorten the routes and add extra buses. But each year they had to be reminded of their responsibilities and cajoled into fulfilling them.
This is why I have nothing but admiration for the parents who recently got together to start Parents to Improve School Transportation (PIST). They have a website and a blog (you can even follow them on Twitter), and their mandate is to make bus routes shorter, safer, sensible and stable for all students.This week, they'll voice their concerns to the Office of Pupil Transportation (OPT) Director and the Department of Education's Deputy Chancellor of Special Education at the Citywide Council on Special Education. Please come support them if you can—the meeting is Thursday, November 18, at 5:30 pm at Norman Thomas High School (33rd St. and Park Ave. in Manhattan).
Although Brooks has not taken a bus to school in years, periodically we get phone calls from the DOE informing us that his route or pickup time has changed. Clearly, the old systemic problems have never been addressed and are only getting worse.
Parents to Improve School Transportation: Go get 'em!