French lesson for stranded B.P.C. bus kids: ‘Déjà vu’

By Sisi Wei

Sixth grade students at M.S. 104 were waiting to take the bus from Battery Park City on Sept. 2 when 40 minutes later, the bus still hadn’t arrived. The second day of school, it happened again.

This scenario is déjà vu to M.S. 104 parents however, since the bus didn’t show up last year until a week after school started.

“When my daughter waited for the bus this morning [Sept. 3] it never showed up,” Minna White, a sixth grade parent, wrote in an e-mail to Downtown Express. “My dad ended up having to take her.”

Tom Goodkind, now a seventh grade parent, pioneered getting the bus last year.

“I did it over five months of nagging,” he said and upon success, the school bus became the first bus to pick up sixth grade students from Lower Manhattan.

Most middle school students in New York City are eligible for MetroCards and according to the N.Y.C.’s Department of Education Office of Pupil Transportation, M.S. 104 issued a total of 1,532 full and half-priced MetroCards for the 2008-2009 school year. Sixth graders however, can obtain a bus if there is sufficient parent interest and if children live more than a mile away from school, said Goodkind. Since M.S. 104 is the only zoned middle school for District 2 and 15 students is more than enough interest, the bus was able to be secured.

“We are entitled to this bus by law,” Goodkind said. “Sure enough, [this year] 15 children e-mailed the school and copied me and I got a call from Blanca Rivera who said that we got the bus again for the second year.”

It can take almost an hour to get to M.S. 104 from B.P.C. by public transportation because the trip requires bus or subway transfers.

Rivera, the M.S. 104 parent coordinator responsible for organizing the bus this year, did not return calls for comment.

Contrary to last year, sixth grade parents received absolutely no information other than the bus’s availability this year — they were given neither a bus number or bus schedule by the school or O.P.T.

“I was waiting at the Chase building with my daughter because we’re very proud to be the family to bring a middle school bus to Downtown,” he said. After the bus didn’t show up, “I grabbed a ton of kids and threw them in a cab. I’m like Johnny Bus Appleseed or something. When this happened last year, my friend was getting out of a parking garage and I just said, ‘Kids, get in.’ ”

Atlantic Express, the school bus company, was unable to provide any information regarding the scheduled bus without a bus number or the intersections of bus stops. Since parents were also not provided with bus schedules, the two bus stops at P.S. 234 and the Chase Bank on South End Ave. had no official intersections.

“Most of the routes started up in September,” said Malika Henderson, an Atlantic Express employee. “What they had last year may not be what they have this year.”

Henderson also said that if buses were approved, the parents should have received bus schedules from the school.

“I am extremely upset over this,” White wrote. “As it is I am already a bit uncomfortable with the fact that my child is going to school so far out of the neighborhood but to not have the bus service promised to us makes my head spin.”