NYC Yeshivas, Parents, Brace for Possible School Bus Driver Strike

By Matis Glenn

Yeshivas and parents in New York City are preparing for a possible citywide school bus driver’s strike, as the first day of the public school year draws close and negotiations continue between the union representing the drivers and bus companies.

In an email to city school staff, Department of Education Chancellor David Banks described the circumstances as a “labor dispute” between yellow bus drivers, represented by Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union and bus companies that the city contracts with. Banks wrote that he remains “hopeful” that a resolution can be made before the first day of public school, and that a strike is “unlikely.”

Public schools are set to begin classes September 7.

Many Jewish schools have opened earlier this year due to the upcoming Yamim Tovim arriving earlier than usual in relation to the secular calendar.

The city’s Department of Education has formed contingency plans should the strike – the first in a decade – take place, including granting MetroCards to students, reimbursing parents for driving, and even paying for rideshare or car services for parents to get to work after dropping off their children. Children with special needs, migrant children, and students who live in temporary housing would be eligible for free car rides.

“We are pushing for a resolution before the start of the school year. In the meantime, we are working hard to plan for every alternative transportation service we will provide if a strike is called, and make families aware,” Banks said in a statement.

A strike would affect more than 80,000 students who travel on 4,400 routes citywide.

“Working families across New York City should not, and do not have to worry about getting their children to school every day,” Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement. “This administration is here to help ensure our children continue their educations uninterrupted.”

 Banks wrote in his email to school staff that “we share your concerns regarding the impact of a potential bus service disruption on students, staff, and schools.”

“Around 100 Jewish schools will be affected by a potential strike,” Rabbi Yeruchim Silber, Director of New York Government Relations for Agudath Israel of America told Hamodia.

“We are closely monitoring the situation and we’re exploring a wide array of options. It’s a potentially serious issue, and we’re not downplaying it. We’re going to do everything we can to help the schools that we work with to make the best decisions. Of course, what we’re really hoping for is for them to settle the issue before the school year starts.”

Rabbi Silber says he has not heard any schools discussing remote learning as a possible remedy.

Parents of children in Jewish schools expressed their concerns to Hamodia.

“During Covid there were times that we brought our kids to school, as well as one period when my daughter’s school had a bussing problem,” Tzvi B., a father who lives in Midwood said.

“On some Fridays and Sundays, if I couldn’t find any other solution, I didn’t bring my daughters to school because, due to traffic, bringing them there would leave them with so little time on short days, that I felt it would not benefit them…For our boys I would make sure that they either went to yeshiva or I would learn with them myself. so as not to sacrifice kevius in limud hatorah.”

Tzvi says that he’s not worried about the welfare of the yeshiva system.

“No matter what the inconvenience is, they’re not going to shut down the schools… We’re more resilient than that when it comes to our Torah and Yiras Shamayim. We’re going to work it out; we’ll figure out some sort of solution. Maybe we can give them scooters with GPS trackers for some ages. Children who live far from school might miss some days, but as a whole, it’s not going to impede our chinuch.”

Berel K., who has three children, says he depends heavily on school busses.

“I rely on the bus entirely; having no bus service would upend my family’s day. I’d have to drive them, and work less, because my wife doesn’t drive, and they’re too young to take a city bus by themselves. We wouldn’t be able to carpool either, because there aren’t any families with school-age children on my block.”

Another father, Yaakov K, would not be bothered by having to drive his kids to school. “I used to always bring them myself, because I don’t like my children being in a bus with very little supervision…they would tell me about various negative influences and experiences that they had on the bus…we only made the decision to put them on the bus because our schedules made it very difficult, but I wouldn’t be upset at having to drive them again.”

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