BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Erie County lawmakers are trying to find a way to get Buffalo students to school before the bell rings. It comes as the city continues to deal with the shortage of school bus drivers.
Legislator Howard Johnson introduced a resolution at Thursday’s meeting, asking for a solution to the transportation crisis at Buffalo Schools.
He said even halfway through the school year, students are still waiting on buses for hours — they’re arriving late to school and are late getting back home. He also said it’s disrupting their education.
“We recognize that sometimes some students might get picked up, some students aren’t, and we just wanted to encourage the administration and the teachers’ union to get to the table to negotiate,” he said. “Right now it’s terrible and I’m hoping that they come to the table, urging them to come to the table, pleading with them to come to the table to resolve this crisis.”
The district is proposing to have staggered school start times. Johnson said he believes that would help get every student to school on time. But this option is creating tension between the union and the district. Johnson is urging the Buffalo Teachers Federation and the school district to reach a solution as soon as possible.
Duncan Kirkwood of the education and equity task force said the issue needs an urgent solution.
“We have an urgent problem and we need an urgent solution,” he said. “So we are really happy to see, leaders in our county legislature, to take up the issue and say what can we do, how can we get involved? how can we be supportive and help and find a solution for our children.”
Legislator Johnson detailed how many students have been affected by the shortage.
“The numbers are about 1,500 students affected — mainly inner-city school children — and we just think it’s a real crisis that’s happening out there,” Johnson said. “We just need some real resolve to it. So I’m [pleading] right now, with the administration and that union, to come together to come to a sensible agreement to curb this.”
In a survey conducted by the Buffalo Teachers Federation, more than 80% of teachers voted against a staggered start time. Union president Phil Rumore wants the district to focus on hiring more bus drivers.
“We don’t have a standing in it, but when it’s about the kids — I’m pro teacher, I’m pro union — but I’m pro kids first,” Johnson said. “What happens to these kids? The loss of education, the potential danger of them being picked up late or dropped off late is concerning.”
Legislator Johnson is remaining hopeful that a solution will eventually be reached, but is unsure of exactly when that might happen.
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