Parents improvise plans to get kids to school on eve of the bus driver strike
As a school bus strike loomed Tuesday, parents of 152,000 NYC students Facebooked, fumed, networked and brainstormed ways to shuttle their children to and from school.
"I need these buses back! My life is going to be hell!" said Tatyana Fanshteyn, 32, of Great Kills.
Fanshteyn planned on schlepping her 6 and 9-year-old sons with her 3-year-old in a stroller on an already crowded public bus to P.S. 50 in Bay Terrace.
The slog will conscript her day, as she will have to lug her stroller-bound toddler back on the bus to retrieve his older brothers to be there when they get out of school at 2:20 p.m. And Fanshteyn, a stay-at-home mom, expected to be tapped by working parents to let their kids sleep over so she could escort them as well. The strike vandalizing the carefully calibrated routines of New York parents is "really, really, really inconvenient," said Fanshteyn.
Meanwhile, the parent of another P.S. 50 student, Karen Cohen, 51, of Richmond, Staten Island, was steaming about how much her family would be spending to take Adam, 5, to and from kindergarten.
"My husband will take Adam in a car service, but then he has to come back on his own and (the Dept. of Education) is only paying for two out of the four trips each day. It's seven dollars each way and you have to give a tip. Are they going to reimburse for tips?" asked Cohen, a second grade public school teacher who estimates her family may have to shell out an extra $30 a day.
Her husband, who has severe arthritis, "is between jobs and we have only one income, so this is really difficult," she said. A neighbor might take Adam to school one day a week, and Cohen had sought to liaison with other moms and dads on Facebook, but "so far I haven't heard anything back," she said.
The DOE released a letter Tuesday saying MetroCards would be provided for students who normally take buses. Parents of kids who are in special programs, or who have children who are in kindergarden to second grade may request MetroCards for themselves as well Thursday. Reimbursement will be offered as an alternative for parents whose children receive busing from home, and kindergarten to 6th grade kids who live in areas where public transportation is not readily available. Drivers will be reimbursed at 55 cents per mile and parents who use taxis or car service will be reimbursed for two trips a day. A spokesperson yesterday said that tips would also be reimbursed as long as receipts were included with the reimbursement forms.
But public transportation isn't an option for everyone.
"We're going to figure out car pools," said Debbie Firestone, 28, a mother of three in Flushing, whose daughter, Shoshana, 6, usually takes the yellow bus to her private school in Kew Gardens.
Firestone, an occupational therapist, said officials appeared not to grasp the delicate, time-sensitive ballet of departures and hand offs that takes place in homes with working parents. "The whole day is based on that bus taking her away at 7:50 so I can leave at 7:55 to get to work," she said. "My babysitter (for a toddler and infant) can't get to my house much before 8 a.m. because her son is dropped off at his day care center at 7:30 a.m."
Michelle Wolfson, 39, a Greenwich Village parent, plans to "subway pool" uptown with three or four other families, as they learned to do in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. After-school pick ups are trickiest, noted Wolfson, because few people have the luxury of leaving their jobs in the middle of the day.
Omar Ahmed, 10, a fourth-grader at P.S. 113, will probably be driven or walked to school by his stay-at-home dad, said his mom, Scarlett Ahmed, 43, a state agency supervisor. Most of her neighbors have cars, and her husband, Mokarram, will probably be shuttling kids from the families that don't. New York parents "help each other out," Ahmed said.
The strike may be a cause of agita for moms and dads, but many kids welcomed the adventure of a departure from their daily routines, the excitement of a new form of transportation, or extra time with a parent. “Omar loves it,” said Ahmed. Her son was disappointed to find out that a bus driver strike did not mean he would be excused from going to school. But he still “wants an elementary kids union to demand mandated recess,” Ahmed said.
(With Meredith Galante)