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 meetings with yeshivah coordinators on Tuesday morning.
Held at Yeshivah Toras Emes-Kamenentz in Flatbush, the gathering brought together the many parties that are involved in providing busing, including many OPT and Committee on Special Education staff members, busing vendors, and account managers for yeshivos. Rabbi Moshe Ausfresser, chief account manager for the yeshivah community, led what was the 10th such meeting.
Rabbi Dr. Chaim Wakslak, Rav of the Young Israel of Long Beach and clinical director of the Hebrew Academy for Special Children (HASC), opened the event by expressing deep appreciation to those involved in transporting special-needs students. He began by telling a story about Harav Nosson Zev Dessler, zt”l, who traveled together with his father, Harav Eliezer Eliyahu Dessler, zt”l, after the latter insisted they go see Harav Eliezer Silver, zt”l, in Cincinnati. Upon arriving after what was then a long and difficult journey, the elder Rav Dessler made it known that they made the trip solely to express their appreciation to Rav Silver for his help in establishing the Hebrew Academy of Cleveland, of which the younger Rav Dessler was the founder.
“I, too, have come here just to express my appreciation for all that you do for our schools and our students,” said Rabbi Wakslak. “My heart constantly goes out to families who feel caught betwixt and between the needs of [their] handicapped children and [their] other children; your help does so much in relieving that stress that they constantly live with.”
Eric Goldstein, CEO of the Office of School Support Services, discussed several technological advances that his department is in the midst of incorporating, including a program that makes it easier to track the exact students that are on each bus at any given time.
Besides the additional sensitivity needed, transportation of special-needs students can require accommodation of medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, or oxygen, and often involves custom pick-up locations and scheduling. All these factors create obvious challenges in coordination of schedules, drivers, and others who help with getting children safely from their homes to school and back.
Before the event, Rabbi Ausfresser emphasized to Hamodia the tremendous importance of showing the community’s appreciation for those involved in transporting special-needs students.
“The way a child’s ride to school goes has a lot to do with how his day goes afterwards; it’s not an easy job and they deserve to hear our thanks for what they do,” he said. “They have to change their routes to accommodate respite and other programs that are essential for kids and parents, but that does not mean that it is an easy thing to do.”
A meeting held on April 9 dealt with yeshivos’ general education transportation needs and was attended by representatives of over 85 mosdos.
Discussed at the meeting were issues affecting the 15,000 yeshivah students who are bussed daily in the five boroughs.