RCSD parents plead for district not to cut off bus services for charter school students

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The notion of cutting off bus service for Rochester students who don’t go to Rochester City Public Schools is bringing out intense criticism and frantic appeals from students and parents.

On Thursday night they dominated public comments at the meeting of the Rochester school board saying “Don’t do it!”

“I am completely heartbroken that my daughter’s learning experience may be interrupted by an operational error,” said Ashara Baker, whose kindergartener daughter goes to a charter school.

She pleaded with the school board to keep the buses rolling to get her there and joined a list of parents and students worried they won’t be able to get to the schools they love.

“Where would you have us go?” asked Joshua Banda, who is bused from Rochester to school in Penfield as part of the Urban-Suburban Schools program. “With some of our top schools already at capacity, where do you intend to send me and other students like me?”

A school district task force has recommended that RCSD stop providing bus services to students at private, parochial or charter schools outside the city, or the urban-suburban school program. The plan would leave some 3,500 students without transportation. Tatiana Martinez said she got a taste of that when bus service to Young Women’s College Prep was interrupted by the RCSD’s bus driver crunch in the fall.

“I live in the city of Rochester and will be impacted, not having transportation,” she told the board. “Please take this into consideration and do your best to save our education.”

“Our children deserve the right to an equal education,” echoed Dumany Panela, whose two children go to charter schools. “Just because the schools are outside city-bound, does not mean our children do not benefit from them.”

So far, school board members haven’t said they’ll approve any plan to stop the buses but some parents say they want to know what to plan for beyond the current school year.

“Your replies do not speak to the long-term disruption of services,” said Ashara Baker. “Schools and families cannot function only thinking about guaranteed transportation for one academic year.”

“We block our children from reaching their full potential when their academic needs have not been met,” said Sherie Banda, Joshua’s mother. “Again, I ask, if these were your children, what would you do?"

The school board is expected to consider a series of recommendations from the task force, including the change to bus service, in January.