New York public school students are among the last to head back to class at school startup each summer — yes, post-Labor Day is still summer, as fall does not officially start until Sept. 23.
With the return of schoolchildren come the full armada of yellow school buses to the streets and roads of cities, towns and villages across the Empire State. The New York Association for Pupil Transportation is reminding motorists to not illegally pass stopped school buses they encounter that are picking up and dropping off students.
NYAPT estimates 50,000 motorists illegally pass school buses on any given school day.
“Providing New York’s school-age children a safe school bus ride to and from school each day is our top priority, and we urge all drivers to do their part and be extra cautious as schools reopen,” said NYAPT Ted Nugent, president of NYAPT and transportation director at Coxsackie-Athens School District, which borders the west bank of the Hudson River about 25 miles south of Albany. “We are asking drivers to avoid distractions while driving, be aware that school buses are back on the roads, and to always stop when they see those red lights flashing on a school bus because students’ lives depend on it.”
Further complicating matters this school year is a worsening school bus driver shortage. NYAPT took the opportunity of school startup to also warn of potential transportation disruptions.
“While Gov. [Kathy] Hochul and the legislature have made important policy changes to assist schools with recruiting and retaining school bus drivers, many school transportation departments are still struggling to address the driver shortage problem,” said NYAPT Executive Director Dave Christopher. “We ask that parents and caregivers who experience delays in school bus service or have transportation routes temporarily eliminated due to lack of drivers be patient and have backup plans for transporting their children to and from school.”
NYAPT is also asking the public to “please be patient with their school transportation personnel who might be feeling the pressures of providing transportation services with limited resources.”
New York City, for example, is also bracing for a potential school bus driver strike, which is estimated to disrupt up to 150,000 student riders. On Monday, New York City officials released an action plan in the case of a potential strike by the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181. Chancellor David Banks stated that if a strike occurs, Emergency MetroCards, pre-paid rideshare passes, and transportation reimbursement to parents will be issued for all affected students.
Meanwhile, NYAPT noted that job seekers can find rewarding part-time positions as school bus drivers, which offer flexible schedules, competitive hourly pay, bonuses, employer-provided health insurance, and school holidays.
Numerous New York school districts are challenged in finding enough school bus driver applicants. And when they do, as has been the case for Buffalo Public Schools, driver applicants cannot pass the written Commercial Driver License test. Others flunk mandatory federal drug tests, as marijuana is legal as a recreational drug in Western New York.
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