Parents blindsided as bus change leaves dozens stranded

October 18, 2018 06:53 AM

On Friday, dozens of Rochester charter students were stranded at school with no way home – and parents learned it wasn't a mistake. 

Starting this year, Greece Central School District is only providing transporting for a handful of half days for charter schools. 

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However, parents had no prior warning, only finding out when their children were stranded. 

To clarify, public schools provide transportation for all charter students in the Rochester area. 

"I got a call from my daughter saying 'mom the bus is not coming to get me,'" said Sari Ashcraft, a mom of two. 

The parent had to leave work early Friday to pick up her two kids from Rochester Prep.  

When she called the school for answers she tells News10NBC they were just as shocked as she was. 

"They said they had no idea my kids weren't going to be bussed on Fridays," said the mom. 

In years past, any charter schools transported home by GCSD were provided bus service on Fridays for early dismissal days, but driver shortages and declining resources have forced the district to limit "special bus runs." 

In an email to News10NBC, a spokesperson left the following points regarding the bus situation: 

  • Greece Central School District informed the charter schools in March of 2018 that each school would be allowed as many early release days as Greece Central has in its schedule. At the elementary, for example, it's four. The elementary charter schools can select four early release days of their choosing. They do not have to mirror the Greece Central early release days. We also sent a follow-up letter in May.
  • This is a change from previous years. We accommodated all charter school early release days last year, but declining resources no longer permit us to do so. We no longer have enough bus drivers to accommodate the number of special bus runs they desire. 
  • This change is in accordance with NYS transportation requirements for students enrolled in nonpublic schools.
  • This policy is not unique to Greece Central. Other districts, including Gates, Irondequoit and Rush Henrietta who transport to these schools also follow the same practice. 
  • Transportation changes are not unique to charter schools. Changes were made to transportation services provided to students attending all Greece Central Schools – including the institution of centralized bus stops and more recently consolidated bus runs. Again, we do not have the resources to maintain the same level of service.

Here's where things got confusing.

Charter schools impacted by the change, including Rochester Prep and Vertus, didn't realize Friday's counted as early release since the short school day was part of their normal schedule.

Therefore, schools didn't warn parents. 

In a statement Wednesday, Rochester Prep released this statement: 

"The district of Greece is required by law to provide transportation to students attending charter schools. We are disappointed that the district informed families and us that they cannot accommodate Rochester Prep's Friday dismissal time. We are working closely with each of our families to ensure every one of our students who live in Greece has safe and reliable transportation home every Friday."

Rochester Prep has 40 kids impacted by this change. But they aren't the only school that's affected.  

"I was just confused how this could have happened," said Leah Dewolf, a mom whose son waited more than an hour at Vertus Charter School on Friday for a bus that never came. 

She says the school is offering her son a free bus pass for public transportation but the mom says the journey would include two buses and a mile walk with no sidewalk. 

"It's either, I put him on a bus where he is put into harm during winter, I leave work or he misses school," said the frustrated mom. 

Charter schools have not said how they plan on accommodating students with no way home every Friday. 


Beth Cefalu

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