DOE Changes Queens School Bus Route After Parents Say Trip Doubled

By Jeanmarie Evelly on October 23, 2013 9:29am 

 Children who live in Long Island City and take the bus to Astoria's P.S. 122 were recently told they had to start showing up at their bus stops about a half hour earlier than their usual pickup time, parents said.
Children who live in Long Island City and take the bus to Astoria's P.S. 122 were recently told they had to start showing up at their bus stops about a half hour earlier than their usual pickup time, parents said.
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DITMARS — The Department of Education has agreed to change a Queens bus route back to the way it was after parents complained that the length of their kids' commutes suddenly doubled in time in recent weeks.

Children who live in Long Island City and take the bus to Astoria's P.S. 122 were recently told they had to start showing up at their bus stops about a half hour earlier than their usual pickup time, parents said.

They learned the bus — which they say brings about 40 students from Long Island City to P.S. 122 on Ditmars Boulevard — had to make a detour to pick up and drop off students at P.S.  151, located on 31st Avenue in Woodside.

"The first reaction was, 'This has to be a mistake,'" said mom Phoebe Kao, who lives in Long Island City and sends her daughter on a bus to kindergarten in the Gifted and Talented program at P.S. 122.

Her 4-year-old's ride to school went from a half hour to an hour, she said, clocking in at about seven miles compared to three miles previously.

"We get out of the house before the sun rises," Kao said. "It's just very hard getting up at six o'clock to go to kindergarten."

Several parents complained to the DOE's Office of Pupil Transportation, arguing that the altered bus route was in violation of a Chancellor's Regulation that limits bus trips to 5 miles.

However, the parents say they were told by OPT that the "five mile" rule applies to the placement of bus stops en route to each assigned school, not the whole trip collectively.

"Their explanation is that even though it's one bus, the bus is on two separate routes," said Mandana Limbert, whose daughter is in kindergarten at P.S. 122.

"They're not calculating the detour to pick up children to go to P.S. 151, they're only calculating the kids from P.S. 122."

A spokeswoman for the DOE confirmed the policy.

"The five-mile rule pertains to the placement of bus stops and not the actual length that a bus travels," spokeswoman Marge Feinberg wrote in an e-mail.

The DOE, however, ultimately reviewed the parents' complaints and agreed to once again split the bus route between the two schools, returning it to the way it was.

"We listened to the parents and reviewed their request again and decided this was the best option," Feinberg said. Service will be switched back starting Monday, she said.

And while parents are happy to have their bus route back, Limbert said she finds the DOE's explanation of the five mile regulation to be "a serious problem."

"It's pretty clear that what it's meant to be is that the children sit on the bus for no more than five miles," she said. "To me, that is really manipulative."

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