NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Just one week into the new school year and hundreds of parents are complaining that a new GPS system that was supposed to keep track of all city school buses does not work.
On Thursday, CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge spoke to parents who said they were lied to.
Mother of two Lainie Gutterman meets her kids, 9-year-old Ian, who is autistic, and his sister, 6-year-old Greenly, who is non-verbal, at the bus stop. She said wondering where their school bus is every day is stressful.
“I was promised that there would be GPS, that I could see my children’s bus, where they were at all times, on my phone, which would be a great way to follow my kids,” Gutterman said.
But it didn’t happen, even though the Department of Education guaranteed parents in a letter in August that “by the first day of school there will be GPS capabilities on all buses, including general education and pre-k routes.”
“It’s not working. There has not been much communication to the parents about the expectation of when the bus tracking will be working,” said Rachel Saar, who has a special needs son. “Putting your child who is nonverbal, who has seizures, on a bus and not knowing where they are at any given time is very stressful.”
“My son is very anxious. He’s on the spectrum. He needs consistency. He needs routine,” Gutterman added.
Last year, Gutterman said both her kids got stuck on a school bus for six hours during a freak snowstorm. They had no food or bathrooms. It was a situation that played out across the Tri-State Area.
That’s what prompted City Councilman Ben Kallos to work to get legislation passed last January mandating the city equip its nearly 10,000 buses with GPS trackers.
Instead, “I am hearing from parents who are telling me that they’re calling to find out where their kids are and the DOE still doesn’t know,” Kallos said.
Parents were also supposed to be able to call a hotline operated by the Office of Pupil Transportation to locate bus coordinates, but thus far have had to wait an hour to talk to someone. One mother finally did get through.
“Is your child still getting on the bus this morning?” the operator asks.
“Well, I mean he would be, except the bus never showed up. So I never heard from anybody,” the mother responds.
“OK. The regular driver called out. I have a driver that could go there in 15 minutes,” the operator says.
Late Thursday, the DOE told CBS2 that GPS was installed on every bus by the deadline. If they are not turned on, the DOE said those companies will be held financially accountable, but how they plan to do that remains unclear, Duddridge reported.
The DOE did announce a partnership with Via, the ride-share company, last month. That plan is to use its technology to improve bus routes and offer parents GPS tracking of buses. However, Kallos doesn’t think that will be rolled for at least a year.