With a specific focus on serving the needs of children who require special education, the New York City Department of Education’s Office of Pupil Transportation (OPT) hosted the second part of its annual meeting with yeshivah coordinators on Tuesday morning at Yeshivah Toras Emes in Flatbush.
The meeting brought together the many parties that are involved in providing busing for schools, including many OPT and Committee on Special Education staff, busing vendors, and account managers for yeshivos. Rabbi Moshe Ausfresser, chief account manager, led what is the eighth such meeting.
“When it comes to special ed, each child’s transportation has to be made specifically for them,” said Alexandra Robinson, the executive director of OPT. “We know that transportation can make or break a day in school.”
She added that her experience as a teacher of special-needs children early in her career had given her an invaluable understanding of the importance of successfully tailoring transportation to the needs of students with disabilities.
Rabbi Yitzchok Yehuda Heiman of Mosdos Skvere expressed his gratitude on behalf of the hundreds of institutions in all five boroughs.
“Imagine if all of the parents, grandparents and children who benefit from busing would be here, think how loud it would be. I am speaking for all of them, so you will excuse me if I speak a little loudly,” he said.
Besides the additional sensitivity needed, transportation for special-needs students can require accommodation of medical equipment such as wheelchairs or oxygen and often custom pickup locations and scheduling.
“We have thousands of opportunities to pass on warmth and humanity in how we do our jobs,” said Rabbi Ausfresser in an emotional appeal. “Every society is judged by how we treat our most needy.”
Following a moving story about the impression that a thoughtful act of kindness made on a disabled child, he took the opportunity to discuss several practical planning concerns with all involved parties under one roof. Rabbi Ausfresser closed his remarks by revealing the impressive number of buses that were scheduled for field trips on Lag BaOmer: 745!
A meeting held last week for general education transportation needs in the yeshivos was attended by representatives of over 100 mosdos and was addressed by Eric Goldstein, CEO of the Office of School Support Services.
There, Rabbi Ausfresser highlighted the busing “accomplishment of the year” when 156 buses from all five boroughs descended upon the Barclays Center for the commemoration of the 80th yahrtzeit of Sarah Schenirer. Bus companies, OPT, NYPD and other city agencies worked together to coordinate the transport of thousands of Bais Yaakov students who were brought together for the historic event.
With over 7,700 school buses, New York City has the largest fleet in the world after London’s 10,000 buses. The city ferries 160,000 children a day at an annual cost of approximately $1.1 billion.