Have fallen off.
On January 18 the school bus driver and matron union decided to strike. As best as I can decipher, this entire strike is about whether or not the city will agree to include in bus contracts an employee protection plan. I'm not sure of the details, but it seems that the union wants some protection for seniority in any new contracts the city signs. The Mayor claims this would be illegal to include. There is some litigation on the issue of whether the strike is legal or not, but the judge (ironically the same one who heard the litigation in the last bus strike in 1979) has not rendered any decision. He's old, so it could be a while before he writes a decision.
My mother reminded me that the last time there was a school bus strike, it lasted 3 months. Three flipping months. This semester will almost be over if this strike lasts as long as the last one. The strike not only affects the regular yellow school bus service, but the special ed buses as well. The city has given parents metro cards for the city bus and subway and will reimburse taxi fares (but only if you live in area where you cannot use public transportation and remember to keep the original receipt). So for us it is the city bus.
By comparison to many families, Eliza and I have it easy. We have access to a city bus in the morning with a very short walk, in the evening we have access to a city bus with a much longer walk. Given the weather and winter darkness, the quarter mile walk to the evening bus is often unpleasant. I've had to adjust when I get to work in the morning as well as Eliza's nighttime and morning routines to accommodate the new commute. Eliza is pretty good with changing routines these days, but the bus strike is adding about an hour to her already long day and I can see this wearing on her.
But for those families who can't adjust their work schedules, who have other children to get to other schools or who have children who attend special ed schools far from home, the strike is an abject misery. The percentage of special needs children who are simply not attending school is high because their parents cannot get them to school, or it is a 2 hour commute each way, or their children cannot use public transportation because of their disabilities.
And no one really seems to care.
The media had a bit of hoo-ha at the beginning of the strike and now there is the occasional blurb about it. Last night there was a meeting at Gracie Mansion (the Mayor's Mansion that our mayor doesn't use since he has a much, much nicer mansion of his own) between the union and the bus companies. No one from the Office of Pupil Transportation ("OPT") attended.The Mayor didn't attend. The only thing the union and companies could agree on was that the Mayor needed to be involved in any resolution. Kind of would have been nice if he had at least shown up, maybe serve some cocktails. It was his house after all. You would think his sense of good manners alone would have required him to host the get together.
The new solution seems to be getting "replacement" drivers and matrons. Despite googling in earnest I have not been able to uncover where the companies will find these replacements. Will they just be unemployed people who happen to have a bus driver's license? Will there be any background checks on them? Will any of them know how to deal with special needs children (or for that matter a bus full of 30 typical kids)? Will they know that my kid has to be buckled in? Will they care if she is not buckled in?
Eliza has been riding the bus for four years, so we are pretty much special ed school bus professionals. We've had our ups and downs at the beginning of each year, more so since starting Kindergarten rather than preschool and the problems usually related to the annual ritual of trying to figure out the bus schedule. Until this year we had been lucky with our drivers and matrons. This year was our first bad experience with a matron with Maria the Silent also known as Maria of the Shrug (who may win the award for Worst Bus Matron), but with the right number of complaints (and hours of wasted time) I was able to get Eliza's bus changed and the new driver and matron are great.
Every morning Eliza asks where Miss Norma and Mr. Juan are and each day I tell her that their bus is broken.
It is easier than telling her OPT is broken.