Are You Prepared For A School Bus Strike?

This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs over at AutismWonderland.

I will never forget the first day I put my son, Norrin, on a school bus. He was two years old, his book bag straps kept falling off his shoulders, he had no language and he was still wearing diapers. Norrin’s been on a school bus ever since (he’ll be seven in a few days). He’s never gone to a school within walking distance. And most of the special needs children I know are taken to school by bus. It’s a service so many parents rely on. And I never even thought about what I would do if that service abruptly stopped. Not until recently anyway.

New York City students and families are being impacted by a school bus strike – 152,000 students to be exact, with a significant amount being students with special needs.

Norrin is one of those students. And on Day Two of the strike, our family is already struggling.

I work full-time outside of the home as a Legal Administrative Assistant, my husband is a Court Officer – we don’t have the kind of jobs where we can work from home. Norrin’s school is twenty miles away – far from public transportation. We have a car but I don’t know how to drive. If I were to take Norrin to school on my own it could take up to two hours in commuting (by bus, train and a short cab ride) or a thirty minute cab ride (about $75 each way).

But getting Norrin to school isn’t really the problem.  It’s picking him up – that’s the issue. It interferes with work and after school therapies. I’ve spent this last week trying to weigh all my options in the event of a school bus strike. And we’re still trying to figure out the logistics and put together our contingency plan. But the reality is, there are no easy options. I’ve already used two vacation days to stay home – not sure how much longer we can last. The last strike was in 1979 and it lasted three months.

Can you imagine if your special needs child missed three months of school because of a bus strike?

I’m hoping it doesn’t last that long. Because Norrin cannot miss three months of school or services.

But this strike has been an eye opener. I realized that I don’t have the contact information for any of Norrin’s five classmates. And even though Norrin does well riding trains and buses – I’ve never taken him up to school by myself. I haven’t even made the  trip on my own. I love Norrin’s school, it was well worth the fight to get him there but I wish it were closer. I wish I had the ability to drop him off and to connect with other parents. Once things get back to normal, I’m going to reach out to the parents of Norrin’s classmates.

I’m home with Norrin and we’re ready to head out – maybe to the zoo or the museum. But I want to hear from you.

Are you impacted by the NYC School Bus Strike? What are you doing? For more strike information and reimbursement forms – please click HERE.

And if you’re not in NYC but you depend on a school bus to transport your child to and from school – do you have a Plan B if busing was no longer an option?


photo credit: Caitlinator via photopin cc

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  1. by Jan

    On January 17, 2013 at 9:39 am

    My son is also missing school he travels from the Bronx to Long Island. Car service is too expensive and public transportation is not an option. While I feel for the bus drivers and matrons the special needs kids are suffering the most. They need to be in school they need their therapies. The mayor and chancellor are downplaying attendance because I know many special needs kids are staying home and I think if the strike continues next week it will only get worse.

  2. by Melissa

    On January 17, 2013 at 9:40 am

    Lisa- I am so sorry to hear that the strike is effecting you so negatively. We seriously lucked out and happen to have a bus company not on strike. It’s still effecting us a bit – our driver did not show up for work the first day because of all the intimidation going on at their bus depot (they have extra police on hand) and a replacement was called in. Our bus was late because of this one both days. But I’m not complaining – it could be worse! So tragic that Norrin is missing so much… even after Hurricane Sandy wiped out a lot of days too.

  3. by Christine

    On January 17, 2013 at 10:01 am

    Im able to drive my girls to and from school. Not that I can afford the gas, and not like the reimbursement will even begin to pay for my gas…
    Bloomberg doesn’t want to talk about the act that special Ed attendance was 40% down yesterday. The chancellor says that “lots of families have overcome, eventually everyone will” really? The Mayor said that the strike couldn’t last “past June” because that’s the end of the s hook year.
    I feel like no one. Ares about our kids. And they are the ones who are suffering.
    I have no use for the unions. Maybe it’s my over-simplified view, but they’re being unreasonable asking for employee protections. My husband has an office job that he’s about to lose, I’d LOVE it if HE had some employee protections. There ARE no guaranteed jobs in this economy. Shut up, and go back to work.

  4. by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez

    On January 17, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    I heard that only one child in Norrin’s class showed up and that some classes were completely empty. It’s so frustrating. Norrin has never been out of school for more than a three weeks and getting him back into his routine is always tough – as it is for so many of our kids. I’m really worried especially because neither party is willing to come to the table.

  5. by Nick Jacks

    On January 21, 2013 at 8:11 am

    There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t miss living in NYC… except maybe today. If you are looking for(OR PROVIDING) alternate transportation for special needs kids during this strike, please consider Cerebral Palsy Family Network. I know I’ve found transportation alternatives for my 11-year old in there on other occassions. It’s a great resource.