Topsy-turvy bus tweaks

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To the chagrin of parents, school bus routes may be revamped — again.

As city Department of Education (DOE) spokesperson Ann Forte explained, “Each year, we review our general education bus routes and make necessary tweaks. This year, we’ll do an exhaustive review of our general education routes to ensure that we are providing the most efficient bus service to every eligible student.”

In 2007, the DOE faced the wrath of angry parents after bus routes were revamped to save the department money. The rerouting of school bus routes left many kids waiting in the bitter cold for buses to pick them up or walking several blocks to the nearest bus stop.

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein ultimately attended a meeting of District 18’s Community Education Council (CEC) in East Flatbush and acknowledged the problems.

He told parents, “We didn’t do everything right and I apologize for that.”

To avoid a similar fiasco this year, the DOE will not work with a consultant group. Instead, the department will seek the advice of the bus companies transporting children to and from school.

“We do not plan to hire a consultant, but we do plan to meet with the bus companies for suggestions,” Forte said.

Brooklyn politicians say the DOE should consult parents and Community Education Councils (CEC) before revamping the routes.

“Imagine if the MTA decided to reroute public buses without showing anyone its plans. There would be chaos,” said City Councilmember David Yassky. “All we are asking is that DOE consult with the community before redrawing the school bus map.”

“The last time the DOE cut bus routes, some students were stuck with long waits for the bus to pick them up,” Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum said. “Some were dropped off at school late. Others had to cross highways to get to catch city buses instead of a yellow bus. It is crucial that the DOE have a plan to prevent these kinds of problems from happening and that it keep parents involved in this process from start to finish.”

Any changes to school bus routes would go into effect at the start of the school year next September.

“It is important to note, however, that any possible changes (but, again, nothing is set in stone at this point) will go into effect at the start of the new school year at a time when many students are attending new schools anyway,” Forte noted. “Each summer, we communicate any route changes through the schools before the school year begins and this summer will be no different.”

Updated 3:43 pm, October 19, 2011
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