Reporting Kathryn Brown
NEW YORK (CBS 2 / WCBS 880) – Classes began Wednesday for more than one million public school students in New York City. As CBS 2′s Kathryn Brown reports, tough economic times were making it even tougher for thousands of those students to get to school.
It’s always a little bittersweet for parents to send their kids off on the bus on the first day of school, but for many on Staten Island, it won’t just be difficult, budget cuts will make it impossible.
Asked how she’s getting to school, student Victoria Burgarella said, “I don’t know. I guess I’m going to walk or get there somehow.”
Student Chris Cosmai’s answer was “not sure, as a matter of fact.”
Blaming a budget crunch, City officials cut bus service to all 7th and 8th graders, leaving about 3,000 students in need of another way to school.
Last night, in between packing backpacks and lunches, parents railed against the cuts. “He has to walk across the West Shore Expressway and wait on an overpass and there are no stop signs. We have five-way traffic,” one parent said.
“This is an accident waiting to happen and every parent on the Island knows it,” said Kim Dimino.
City officials said the $3 million that will be saved can be put to better use elsewhere.
Opponents of the plan point to the Island’s heavy traffic and limited sidewalks and said the cuts put students’ safety in jeopardy.
“This was so arbitrary. Here’s how we can save $3.4 million. Don’t worry about the kids. They’ll find a way to get to school,” said Councilman Vincent Ignissio.
Students who live more than a mile and a half away from school, however, will be eligible for discounted public transportation, like in other parts of the city. That option didn’t thrill parents or students.
“I don’t think we should be taking the City bus because it’s pretty dangerous getting on the City bus with strangers that we don’t know,” one student said.