KIPS BAY — It is so important to Donna Miles that her 5-year-old daughter learn sign language that the mother, who is deaf, treks two hours each way from the family's home in The Bronx to bring her daughter to the American Sign Language School in Kips Bay.
While Miles' daughter, who is able to hear, attends classes at the city's only sign language-focused public elementary school, Miles waits for seven hours in a spare office at the school because she is unemployed and cannot afford to make the $10 subway and bus trip more than once a day.
“I’m tired of it,” said Miles, who spoke through an interpreter. “I get home with my child at 5, and then I have to cook dinner, go to sleep early to wake up early and start the whole thing over again.”
Miles and her daughter were among the dozen parents and students who rallied outside the East 23rd Street school on Tuesday afternoon to demand transportation for kids who have been barred from riding the school bus to ASL because they can hear.
While deaf students who attend the school are eligible for free busing from the Department of Education because of their disability, their hearing siblings, along with the hearing children of deaf parents, are not allowed to ride the buses, forcing many families to make a long trip in from the outer boroughs.
Over the last couple of years, at least a dozen students have left the school because of the lack of transportation, and more will leave if the problem is not resolved, said Terry Acevedo, parent coordinator at the school, which serves 218 students.
“The school would love to get more buses,” Acevedo said. “More buses means more kids.”
Despite the inconvenience of having to bring their kids to the Kips Bay school, deaf parents said that sending their hearing children to a school in their district is not an option, because the kids need to learn sign language to communicate at home.
“Sending my children to a zoned, local school could mean that my daughter’s ability to sign would disintegrate,” said Jessica Cortes, an Upper East Side resident who said she fears losing her job because she is often late to work because she has to drop her child off at school.
Like Miles, Kim Haynes, 49, spends every weekday in a spare office at the American Sign Language School, waiting while her child attends classes.
“I have to stay at the school because there’s no other choice,” said Haynes, who spoke through an interpreter. “I need a lot of patience to stay and wait. I'm broke, and it’s a waste of money to take the train back and forth.”
Despite the frustration, several parents said they would remain at the school because they didn't see any other option.
“If we don’t get more buses, I’ll just have to suck it up and deal with it," Miles said, "because the school is great, the classes are small and it’s more comfortable for me because I can use sign language to communicate with administration."
The Department of Education did not immediately respond to a request for comment.