NEW YORK CITY (WABC) — The nation’s largest school district, New York City, begins the new school year.
There are some challenges teachers and administrators are facing that they haven’t had in years past.
A school bus driver strike could impact thousands of public school students in the city.
The good news is the union says bus service will run normally for the first two days of school, on Thursday and Friday, but the bad news is that a strike could still happen in the coming days.
The school bus driver strike could impact up to 80,000 students in the New York City public school system. Of those, nearly 25,000 have special needs.
The union that represents the bus drivers, attendants, and mechanics says they simply cannot make ends meet and want to negotiate a fair contract.
“We want to do what’s right by our bus drivers. They are moving our children to and from,” Mayor Eric Adams said.
The city released a contingency plan in the event of a strike.
Students would be given MetroCards if they are able to take public transit. If that is not an option, families would be reimbursed for alternative transportation, or in some cases, the city may provide ride-share services.
Schools Chancellor David Banks addressed some concerns on Wednesday at a roundtable back-to-school discussion with his deputies at the Department of Education headquarters.
“When both parties are talking, they are not striking, we’re continuing to push for a quick resolution that best serves all of our young people, while ATU has indicated they will not strike on the first day of school, certain steps that must be taken by the companies and the ATU prior to the first day of the school have been delayed,” Banks said. “Every year drivers choose their routes for the upcoming year, a selection which is based on seniority, last week ATU delayed this process, this may result in some drivers being placed on unfamiliar bus routes and some companies not being able to provide families who ride curb-to-school bus routes with pickup and drop-off times in advance of the first day of school.”
Banks also addressed the issue of asylum seeker students, who have almost offset the enrollment decline this year.
There are among the 2,500 students in temporary housing that enrolled this summer, making up a total of 21,000.
“This fall. We committed $12 million or $2,000 per student, to schools seeing an influx of six or more students in temporary housing,” Banks said.
There is no problem with space because 120,000 families disenrolled from the public school system during the pandemic.
The challenge is placing students near their residences as officials say many of the schools near where migrant families are living are reaching capacity.
“Most of the students are being placed in schools that are geographically close to them. For those parents that are able to travel a little bit or willing to go further, then those families can absolutely get enrolled in schools that have stronger immigrant supports,” Lisa Schwartzwald of the New York Immigration Coalition said.
With the influx of migrant students, the city has had to work much harder to find more bilingual teachers.
According to the Department of Education, the city has 3,400 English as a second language teachers in place and 1,700 certified bilingual teachers fluent in Spanish.
The chancellor says city kids still aren’t at the reading levels they need to be and getting them there is a top priority.
“We have gotten this wrong in New York and all across the nation,” Banks said. “And many of us follow the same pre-script of balanced literacy. And like the dance of the lemmings, we all march right off the side of the mountain. And generations of kids have been hurt by that.”
Something that’s new this school year are two virtual high schools, each with 150 ninth and tenth graders, that will soon offer night and weekend classes for remote students with nontraditional schedules.
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