NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Thousands of parents in New York say they had no idea where their kids were as Thursday’s unexpectedly severe snowstorm forced them to sit on school buses for hours.
Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged to fix things by setting up tracking systems, but some local leaders are claiming it’s possible it all could have been accomplished a long time ago.
Bronx parent Jennifer Flores was able to take matters into her own hands as her kids sat hungry, tired, and unable to use a bathroom. She downloaded an app called Live 360, so she was able to walk to where the bus sat stationary for hours.
“If you mark certain spots it’ll let you know where you’re getting near and that’s what the app did, it saved me getting me to my kid’s bus stop,” Flores said.
The Bronx mom is one of the lucky ones, since not every parent has the same setup.
“We actually spent from 2014 until 2017 working with the Office of Pupil Transportation to do it,” City Councilman Ben Kallos (D-5th) said. “Last year they said they were going to do it and last year they said it was going to be in the contracts and they were going to do it, and it was going to be on every single bus in the city.”
Kallos introduced legislation in September to require GPS devices be installed on all school buses contracted with the Department of Education. It would also require the city to provide real-time GPS location data to parents and school administrators.
Mayor Bill de Blasio was asked about tracking the city’s school buses on Friday.
“We need anything that’s not working with GPS and every conceivable form of communication and then linked back to a center that parents can call and get updated information,” the mayor said.
Kallos says that just won’t cut it.
“I’m really concerned about the idea of a call center,” he said. “This is 2018. I want to be able to see it on my phone. I can see where my Uber is on my phone, I can see where a bus is and the MTA is not one of the better agencies in our city, why can’t I still see where a yellow bus is?”
It’s a concern echoed by schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, who said this week the DOE is working on having tracking system on all their buses.
“During our hearing in October we had Chancellor Carranza at the City Council,” Kallos said. “He refused to answer questions about the GPS system.”
Kallos’ proposal will come up for a vote later this month. If it passes, the city must institute the program in the next 180 days. Meantime, the DOE says there is GPS tracking on all special education buses, and they’re currently assessing a small pilot program that’s in place which allows parents to see their bus’ arrival time through an app.