School transport mess leads East Ramapo to hire consultants

The East Ramapo School Board voted Friday morning to hire two bus consultants to help sort out a transportation issue that has left children waiting, sometimes for hours, for their ride to or from school.

Families say they’ve had to spend up to $ 16 a day sending their kids to school by taxi so they don’t fall further behind after learning delays amid COVID school disruptions. Last year, the district faced chronic absences and reports that schools had lost track of some students.

Gerald Fenton, who is based in Long Island, is reportedly paid $ 680 per day, three days a week. Overtime will be paid at $ 85 per hour. Contractual services could last until June 30, 2022.

The board, in its motion to hire Fenton, cited “Fenton’s experience and knowledge of student transportation.” Fenton performed similar duties for the Lawrence School District. This district, like East Ramapo, has a large community of private schools that attend dozens of schools served by hundreds of bus lines.

The district also approved a contract with School Bus Logistics LLC, headquartered in Denver, Colorado. The district will pay School Bus Logistics $ 185 per hour for 107 hours of work, for a total payment of $ 19,795. Contractual services could last until June 30, 2022.

Tasks include reviewing routes for efficiency gains; streamline communications between the district and school communities; and ensure that all drivers are using GPS at all times.

The agreement with Student But Logistics cited “the company’s expertise and experience in school bus transport operations, in particular haulage.”

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East Ramapo’s problems come amid a nationwide shortage of bus drivers that has rocked districts across the state and country.

From Yonkers to Rochester, districts have struggled to open on time due to a shortage of drivers to get children to school. Massachusetts has deployed the National Guard to help transport the children; Schools in Philadelphia have offered parents up to $ 300 in monthly stipends to transport their children on their own.

Assembly Member Michael Lawler called on Gov. Kathy Hochul to activate the guard and the State Department of Labor to provide districts with a list of unemployed qualified bus drivers. Neither was picked up.

But many parents said East Ramapo further stirred up the mess on the buses by informing families of the issues around 36 hours before school started on September 10.

The crowd outside an East Ramapo School Board meeting on Monday, September 13, 2021, in the Spring Valley Administration Building.  Hundreds of people had come to tell their stories of missing or late school buses, but were locked out as a capacity of 45 was instituted.

Hundreds of parents showed up at a school board meeting on September 13 to complain about the bus fiasco, but most were locked out when attendance was capped at 45.

Inside and outside the administration building, parents shared experiences of missing buses, buses with hours of delay, and inaccurate or not received bus passes.

The East Ramapo Schools Superintendent discusses a shortage of bus drivers in the district on Tuesday, September 14, 2021.

On September 14, Schools Superintendent Clarence Ellis said the district had lost 27 drivers, with about 973 of 9,500 public school students without transportation and a similar number of private school students affected. In the east of Ramapo. The student body in private schools is more than three times the size of the student body in public schools.

Spring Valley’s Yeshiva and Monsey’s Bais Yaakov had difficulty with the bus service which can be late for hours, parents whose children attend the schools said.

Smaller private schools that have their own buses and drivers do not appear to be affected.

East Ramapo School Board President Yehuda Weissmandl

At the school board meeting on September 13, parents from both public and private school communities said they had difficulty reaching the transportation department, and when they did, they were greeted rudely or were hung up.

Ellis said on September 14 that he had assigned more people to the Department of Transportation telephone banks. “People need voice access on the other end of the phone.”

Ellis also discussed with the staff “the value of empathy, kindness and support. Especially in a pandemic, we don’t know what families have been through.”

Nancy Cutler writes on People & Policy. Click here for his latest stories. Follow her on Twitter at @nancyrockland.

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