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Special Ed Kids Miss The Bus

While the biggest back-to-school problems seem to be in Prince George's County this year, the District hasn't been glitch free. For the last week, about 100 special education students have not been picked up by their buses because of issues with a new computerized routing system.

Parents who have spoken to the District's call center said they have been told that under the new set up, any change to a child's "transportation information," like a phone number, for instance, results in that name being deleted from the bus route.

David Gilmore, the court-appointed transportation director, said his office is "getting the problem worked out" and that the issue should be resolved in the next couple of days.

The District, which is under the supervision of a federal judge because of its historically poor service to special needs children--service that officials say is improving--spends $77 million a year transporting about 4,000 of them to schools throughout the region, some of them private institutions as far as 75 miles from the city.

Gilmore said Tuesday that every new school year brings "significant issues" related to the complexity of conveying the children to as many 200 different schools.

Bill Turque

By Bill Turque  |  September 1, 2009; 5:00 PM ET
Categories:  Bill Turque , Education  
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I must take this time and place to salute the DCPS bus drivers that I've come in contact with in my school. They gently and faithfully bring in the little children, some with obvious special needs and don't just leave them. They take the time to make sure the kiddies are handed off to their teachers. They play an important role in the overall school program. We appreciate them and know the children's families do too.

Posted by: chelita | September 1, 2009 6:27 PM | Report abuse

I am sure that the DC Public School bus operators do a fine job. But I was puzzled to observe this morning at 7:50 AM a DC Public Schools bus turning off Wightman Road in Montgomery Village in central Montgomery County. Can anyone shed any light on why a DCPS bus would be operating so far from DC at that time of the morning?

Posted by: flwood2341 | September 2, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

flwood2341: In DC, students do not ride the school bus unless they are offered that service as a student with special needs. The bus you saw is most likely a bus that was sending a student to his or her out of district placement.

Bill Turque: I appreciate your reporting but can you please use people-first language, especially when talking about kids with disabilities or kids in special ed? Thanks!

Posted by: mixedmethods | September 2, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

Is Dr. Phyllis Harris still running the Spec. Ed. department? Reason I ask is this sounds *exactly* like the problems we had with bus service for our son with autism when Dr. Harris was the Director of Programs for Exceptional Children in our school district - Oakland, CA.

We had other problems with Dr. Harris, as well, so we weren't sad when she left our district. I'm sorry to say that her replacement here turned out to be much, much worse, unfortunately.

Posted by: SueMc | September 2, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

My daughter started school on August 26th and her bus did not show up to take her to school for the first day. Starting in July
I tried to confirm her pick up and drop off time and was told, by the parent call center for transportation,the day before school started that she had not been routed and that "She's not the only one and if she can't get to school then I guess she can't go."

Over the last seven days of school her bus has only arrived three times to transport her to school on time. I have spoken to the mayor's office, Ms. Rhee's office, the Office of Special Education, and even Mr. Gilmore in transportation but despite my efforts to resolve this issue her tranportation is still unreliable. I do not understand why it is so difficult to get a child to school on time in this city (especially if they are spending $77 million dollars to do so). The children who recieve court ordered transportation are students that need routine and to be in school on time daily. My daughter is now afraid to take a bus and worries that when she gets to school a bus won't be there to take her home.

It is unacceptable that any child in this city should miss seat time because the Office of Special Education and transportation can't get their acts together. Children in our city deserve better than this!

Posted by: penneydc | September 3, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

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