By Mary Frost
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
BROOKLYN — The union representing the city’s school bus drivers is threatening a system-wide strike unless drivers who transport special-ed pre-K students and “early intervention” pre-K children are protected under a new contract.
The contract for these services expires in June 2012, and the Department of Education (DOE) has put out a bid for a new one.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday that the union’s request is illegal. “The law mandates that we seek bids from bus companies in a competitive fashion; it prohibits us from doing what the union wants,” he said.
The mayor said that in the event of a strike all schools will remain open, and that children will be issued MetroCards daily good for two rides. Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union transports more than 152,000 students in New York City.
One Brooklyn mom said a bus strike would be a disaster. “My kid is 10. Our commute to school is three trains and a 15-minute walk.” If she drives her son “it would add an hour to my commute to work to get him to school. I don’t even drive my car to work. If I drive, I’ll have to deal with the parking madness of Downtown Brooklyn.” She added, “I feel like taking him out of school.”
The mayor said that information about disruptions to bus service will be posted on the city’s web site at http://www.nyc.gov. “We urge parents and guardians whose children rely on yellow bus service — for pre-K or K-12 service —to regularly check the web site for updates.”
Parents of pre-school and school-age children with individualized education plans (IEPs), requiring transportation from their homes directly to their school, as well as parents of children in grades K-2, may request a MetroCard for a parent or guardian to act as the child’s escort to school, the mayor said.
But kids in the third grade — that’s eight years old — and older would have to ride the subway by themselves if their parents can’t afford to buy a ride or can’t get off from work to travel with their kids.
Field trips using yellow bus service will be canceled if there is a bus service disruption. After school programs will remain open, but no busing will be provided.
Students who arrive at school late because of disruptions to yellow bus service will be excused for up to two hours. Children who are unable to attend school because of disruptions to yellow bus service will be marked absent with an explanation code that will ensure their attendance record is not negatively affected.
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