East Ramapo Transportation off to a Bumpy Start
By M. C. Millman
While several yeshivas reported a smoother than average beginning to the school year's busing, others reported issues - not unexpected at the start of a school year. However, what multiple school administrators expressed frustration about is the lack of communication between the school's administrators and the transportation department.
September 9 was the first Friday dismissal of the school year. At Bas Mikroh, the 12:00 pm Friday dismissal was different from all the past Friday dismissals at the school of over 700 students.
A majority of students had to be picked up after buses didn't show up, more than a full hour after dismissal.
"At 11:40 am," Bas Mikroh's school bus administrator told Rockland Daily, "I noticed no Chestnut Ridge buses were outside. In the past, they'd be waiting outside the building by 11:30 am. I immediately called East Ramapo. Nobody picked up. We redialed over and over – nothing."
"The busing problems are compounded when schools in charge of over 700 children don't have a direct line of communication," Rabbi Shaul Rosengarten, head of Bas Mikroh, says. "Look at the videos we took Friday showing it's not that Chestnut Ridge lacks buses or drivers. Those buses were sitting at the public school across the street from 12:30 pm for a 2:00 pm dismissal when all of those buses could have been at Bas Mikroh, run our routes, and still would have been back at Ramapo Senior High before their 2 pm dismissal."
"The Department of Transportation told us they sometimes have a hard time handling all of the calls that come in," Bas Mikroh's school bus administrator said. "They suggest we email if we can't get through. It was after twelve p.m., and we emailed every email address we had for transportation at East Ramapo. No one got back to us, so at 1:00 p.m., we called parents to pick up their children. When one or two substitute buses surprised us by showing up after that, I couldn't let students go on those buses. We are talking about girls as young as five who might have ended up at homes with no one home, as their parents were probably on their way to pick them up from school. Had I known those buses were coming, it would have been a completely different story."
"We appreciate the hard work of the Department of Transportation," Rabbi Hersh Horowitz, Executive Director of Community Outreach Council, shares with Rockland Daily. "They are overburdened, understaffed, but truly devoted. Everyone understands there are going to be hiccups on the road, especially when working on the transportation needs of 40,000 students. But when there's no communication between schools and the transportation department, it's frustrating."
Rabbi Horowitz has talked to multiple schools during the first week of school, most of whom have expressed frustration in their inability to get through to ERCSD, mostly due to routing questions pertinent to hundreds of students.
"We start school at 8:45 am and end at 3:45 pm," a representative from Yeshiva Darkei Emunah 2/Girls says. "All the other bus companies keep to our schedule, but when it comes to ERCSD, the district told us the only way they will "give" us busing is if the busing company drops off at 9:15 am and picks up at 3:10 pm. It destroys the whole structure of the school day. Teachers can't teach half a class. We have to have extra staff on hand to handle all the coming and going. We lose a tremendous amount from every school day, and the students are traumatized."
"My daughter comes home from school a nervous wreck every day," shares a Yeshiva Darkei Emunah parent. "She's petrified she's missing something important in the class because of the busing situation. Since when does the district set the times for private schools?"
"On Wednesday, we were missing ⅓ of our buses at dismissal," Yeshiva Darkei Emunah's representative continues. "And on Thursday and Friday, there were none, but there's no one talk to at ERCSD, so we're just stuck."
Another school underwent a similar situation last year.
"School was supposed to start at nine a.m.," the administrator says. "We were told we could start at 8:30, 8:45, or 9:15 - but not at nine. It's only East Ramapo that has the issue - no other districts, but we had to change our start time across the board for them.