Parents, students, and teachers are dealing with the fallout of Thursday’s snowstorm, which stranded yellow buses for hours, created brutal commutes, and forced teachers to stay late for parent conferences.
Just before 9 a.m. Friday, schools Chancellor Richard Carranza announced all after-school programs would be cancelled, sending families scrambling to make arrangements. And perhaps anticipating yet another wave of yellow-bus related problems, all field trips involving buses were also cancelled.
Some parents and educators took to social media to vent about the city’s response.
My son is still not home from school. He was been waiting for a bus for over 4 hours. I am glad he has a wonderful staff keeping them calm, active and fed. @DOEChancellor I normally do not tweet about things like this but I am concerned parent of a special needs child in D75— Veronica Sterling (@Veronica7808) November 16, 2018
Emergency responders were dispatched to free five children with special needs who had been trapped on a school bus for 10 hours, according to City Councilman Ben Kallos. Traveling from Manhattan to the Bronx, students didn’t make it home until “well after midnight,” Kallos said in a statement. The councilman has sponsored legislation to require GPS tracking on yellow buses after the school year began with horror stories about long, circuitous routes. Many riders are children with special needs who travel to programs outside their neighborhoods.
At a press conference late Friday afternoon, Carranza acknowledged widespread transportation issues, and said at least one student didn’t arrive home until 3 a.m. Addressing concerns about why the education department cancelled after-school programs after students had already been dropped off at school Friday morning, he said about 10 percent of the bus fleet had been impacted the night before.
“As we got more and more information it become very apparent that after school transportation was going to be an issue,” Carranza said. “You never make the perfect decision.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would conduct a “full operational review of what happened,” referring to the city’s response to the storm. “We have to figure out how to make adjustments when we have only a few hours but this was—I hate to use this hackneyed phrase—but this was kind of a perfect storm: late information, right up on rush hour, and then a particularly fast, heavy kind of snow.”
The politics of snow-related closures are challenging, forcing city leaders to balance concerns about safety with the needs of working families, who may struggle to make arrangements for emergency childcare.
Snow-day related cancellations have bedeviled previous chancellors; in one famous incident, former Chancellor Carmen Fariña and de Blasio kept schools open despite a forecast of 10 inches of snow. The next day, Fariña proclaimed it was “a beautiful day.”
Still, the de Blasio administration is much more likely to cancel school in response to snow than his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg.
Christina Veiga contributed.