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Queens Chronicle

School bus GPS installment runs late

City elected officials write letter to Carranza demanding explanation

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Posted: Wednesday, November 27, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:44 pm, Thu Dec 5, 2019.

The Department of Education is three months late in fulfilling its promise to implement GPS tracking technology for every city school bus, and City Council members are demanding an explanation.

Led by Councilmember Robert Holden (D-Middle Village), 24 City Council members signed a Nov. 14 letter to city Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza requesting information on the DOE’s failure to furnish the buses with the tracking technology. The legal responsibility was required to be carried out by the start of the 2019-20 academic year.

“The DOE doesn’t seem to hold itself accountable for much of anything, and the students and parents suffer as a result,” Holden said in an emailed response to a question from the Chronicle. “The City Council passed important legislation that would give parents peace of mind when dealing with the city’s embattled busing system, but the DOE didn’t take it seriously enough.”

Local Law 32 was introduced by Councilmember Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) and co-signed by 22 other Council members before being adopted in February earlier this year. It outlined that “GPS data regarding the real time location and velocity of the bus or other motor vehicle used to transport students to or from schools shall be made available electronically to the department, as well as authorized parents or guardians of students who are being transported by such bus or other motor vehicle.”

Kallos introduced the law after a November 2018 snowstorm left a bus of special needs students stranded for several hours in Manhattan. The bus was stuck on its route to the Bronx without the means to alert parents of the setback. The law, wrote the Council members, would allow parents to receive updates on their children’s whereabouts and avoid another frightening experience.

“Every year, there are issues with New York City school buses,” Kallos told the Chronicle. “New York City can do much better and there is no doubt our kids and families deserve it. I authored and passed this law to prevent this perennial problem from occurring again.”

According to the letter, Holden realized the provision had not been met after a constituent complaint brought the issue to his attention. Through an email exchange with a DOE official, Holden demanded an explanation for the delay. In response, the DOE official stated that the implementation “will start getting on some of our buses this winter with full fleet operations by start of school next year.”

Holden and his colleagues found that response unacceptable and the pushback of plans by a year illegal. The formal letter demanded “that the DOE explain its error and abide by the law immediately for the sake of our students and parents.”

“The City Council passed this law so that parents would have accurate information regarding the location of their child’s bus,” said Councilmember Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), one of the 24 elected officials to sign the letter. “This is especially important as we head into the winter months, where snow storms could set buses far behind schedule. It has been nearly 10 months since this tracking device law was implemented, and it is a disgrace DOE hasn’t even taken the first steps to abide by the mandate.”

“We are holding the Chancellor and his administration accountable and will continue to push them to obey the law,” Holden told the Chronicle.

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