The Office of Pupil Transportation (OPT) has announced some changes, effective Monday, Feb. 4, that will benefit parents and students .
Going forward, mileage and taxi reimbursement now covers two round trips for parents. (However, there is no retroactive reimbursement for two-round trips before February 4.)
“It’s for the students. They’re our diamonds, and we’re happy to do it,” said Rabbi Moshe Ausfresser, Jewish liaison to OPT. Rabbi Ausfresser emphasizes that communication is the key to solving the transportation problems, which have been overwhelming in some cases. He, along with Eric Goldstein, CEO of OPT, and Alex Robinson, Executive Director, continue to be responsive to students and parents.
“After visiting many yeshivos during the bus strike, with constant emails and phone conversations, it is obvious that many parents are struggling with getting their sons and daughters to school and back,” said a memo that went out to yeshivos at the end of last week. “We voiced your concerns to the CEO of OPT, Eric Goldstein. who in turn spoke to the Deputy Chancellor.”
The return trip has been approved for special-ed students who use the voucher program (TLC taxi) and third-party payer program (paying para-transit, non-for-profits and other agencies). The companies will invoice OPT for the round trip and the DOE will make payment.
The return trip has also been approved for those submitting a regular reimbursement form for mileage and taxi or car if the partents are approved by a principal, or if parents demonstrate extenuating circumstances such as financial hardship or transportation difficulty.
Some yeshivos have rented out private buses. OPT by contract law cannot pay these private bus companies directly. However, if a school rents a bus, parents pay for all eligible children, and then OPT will reimburse each parent, provided that the bus company gives each parent a receipt and the form is filled out properly. The form must include the child’s student ID, which parents can obtain from the school office.
Rabbi Ausfresser told Hamodia that bus drivers are beginning to feel the financial impact of the strike and, in fact, Support Services has even hired and certified new drivers. The medical benefits of striking drivers ran out at the end of January, and they are receiving only $300 a week. Therefore, some drivers have begun to cross picket lines.