New York City is spending nearly $6 million a day during the coronavirus crisis for idled school buses, The Post has learned.
Under contracts with school-bus companies, the nation’s largest school system is obligated to pay 85% of the daily fees when schools are shut for snow or other emergencies, if the days are not made up later.
That comes to roughly $5.9 million a day for buses parked in lots while students learn from home. Normally, the city Department of Education spends close to $6.9 million a day to transport kids to public and private schools during the 180-day school year.
The DOE plans to keep paying the 85% of fees for mothballed buses, but seek other uses for them.
“This is an ever-changing situation and we intend to honor our contracts and continue to support the bus workforce while exploring ways to utilize these vehicles to serve the city during a crisis,” DOE spokeswoman Danielle Filson said in an email.
Yet three weeks after schools were closed — March 13 was the last day of classes — nothing has been done with the buses.
The cost is steadily rising. Schools are closed until at least April 20, but the city has cautioned that buildings might not reopen until the start of the next school year.
City officials budgeted $1.25 billion for school buses in the current school year, the city’s Independent Budget Office reports.
Schools are closed until at least April 20, but the city has cautioned that buildings might not reopen until the start of the next school year.
Education advocate Lainie Haimson suggested the buses could be used to deliver laptops for as many as 300,000 students who still lack them, or supplies to homes where parents are quarantined.
Other school districts across the country are finding ways to re-purpose bus fleets idled by the virus.
Since schools closed In Charleston, South Carolina, 45 of the district’s 360 buses are back on the road on weekdays — serving as WiFi hotspots, swapping out district-issued laptops and delivering meals to lower-income kids.
In Belleville, Illinois, about 15 miles east of St. Louis, one district has half its 200-bus fleet on the go: four with WiFi as roving hotspots and the rest delivering meals to students.
The National School Transportation Association, which represents school-bus companies, sent a letter to the nation’s governors on March 18, urging school districts to honor their contracts during the COVID-19 crisis. Executive director Curt Macysyn told governors that many operators would have to close their doors if not paid because of high overhead, including maintenance and insurance.
“And if operators go out of business,” Macysyn said, “districts will be scrambling to get children to and from school when things do settle back down.”
A spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not respond to questions.
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