Distraught by young children crossing dangerous intersections to get to school, education leaders in Queens are calling on the city to change the way they handle transportation.
From January 2010 to September 2011, the city approved just 5 percent of public school variances —or requests for elementary school students in third grade and higher to be able to take the yellow school bus instead of walking or using other public transportation, as is now mandated by the Department of Education. The city provides yellow school buses for pupils in kindergarten through second grade, which parents said often leave school buses half full and young children maneuvering dangerous roadways to get to class.
To address this, Dmytro Fedkowskyj, the Queens borough president’s appointee on the city Panel for Educational Policy, has crafted a resolution that calls on the city to create a Safety Hazard Advisory Review Program. The program would require the city to establish a standard operating procedure for reviewing hazard variances —and letting the public in on that criteria. Additionally, each school district could create a committee that would include Community Education Council members, city officials and others.
“Our parents have no idea how the DOE evaluates a hazard variance, or what they look at to determine whether to grant or deny the variance,” Fedkowskyj said.
Fedkowskyj added that the city makes a decision on the variance without properly justifying it to the parent.
“The spirit of the law that governs mayoral control wasn’t meant for the DOE to take a one-size-fits-all approach, which lacks transparency, and apply it citywide.”
The resolution has landed the support of parents throughout the borough, and CEC 30 in western Queens and CEC 24, which includes Maspeth, Ridgewood, Glendale and Middle Village, have recently voted to throw their support behind it.
Tom Haggerty, whose son attends PS 229 in Woodside, supports the resolution because his child has to cross a five-point intersection to get to school.
“Variances for kids in the Big Six towers had been in place for more than 40 years, but it was denied in 2010,” he said. “The proposed walk the DOE gave us is very unsafe. It’s hazardous.” The city did not return a call for comment.