No child should have to sit through a 2-hour bus ride to get to school
We understand the challenges and appreciate that CPS is prioritizing buses for special education and homeless students, but it is not acceptable for any student — let alone one who has a disability — to spend four hours a day on a bus, five days a week.
Most able-bodied adults would have difficulty with a two-hour commute to work and then having to make another lengthy trip back home.
So it isn’t hard to imagine the toll nearly four hours on a school bus would take on a special needs child.
Barely sleeping or eating and tearily begging not to go to school is how Clarissa Edwards’ daughter has been reacting since enduring the nightmarishly-long bus rides this week.
Edwards’ daughter, who attends a Northbrook school because Chicago Public Schools doesn’t have a school that can address her needs, is among the 3% to 4% of city-based students who have had to sit through two-hour bus rides, both ways.
Another 365 students have bus routes that are over an hour and a half, CPS officials acknowledged Wednesday, as Sun-Times education reporter Nader Issa found.
The school bus driver shortage isn’t unique to Chicago. The nation is struggling to find bus drivers, both for schools and transit agencies. So we understand the challenges.
But while CPS is prioritizing buses for special education and homeless students, it is simply not acceptable for any student — let alone one who has a disability — to spend four hours a day on a bus five days a week.
When a child is spending that much time in transit, when can they find the time to get homework done or spend time with family?
Bus drivers who pick up CPS students are being paid at least $20 an hour this year and could get up to $25 an hour, depending on their experience. That’s a much-needed jump from the minimum $16 an hour some drivers were earning before.
CPS officials say the current compensation is comparable to the rates bus drivers in the suburbs earn.
But driving in Chicago ought to pay more. As well, the monthly $500 stipend being offered to parents if they want to opt out of transportation isn’t enough.
The busing CPS is required to legally provide for Edwards’ daughter is the best option for the family, since Edwards has to work and drop off her other child in the mornings.
CPS CEO Pedro Martinez has asked that Edwards and other parents “be patient” and give the school system a couple more weeks to “get more efficient on the routes.”
The sooner, the better. The children sitting through long bus rides have been patient enough.
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