It’s nerve-racking, particularly if this is your first time dealing with the NYC Office of Pupil Transportation (commonly referred to as OPT), but busing doesn’t get worked out until the very end of the summer, and parents must expect to do some follow-up. OPT is a sprawling agency that provides busing for over 600,000 students every year.
At the end of August, if you have not yet received a notice in the mail from OPT, check the OPT website for your child's record and routing information. You will need to input your child’s birthdate and nine digit NYC ID number (sometimes called an OSIS number) to access the OPT student information web-form. You can find your child's NYC ID number on their IEP.
If you don’t see the information you need for your child, call OPT and ask if your child and/or their assigned routing information is in the system (sometimes the online system hasn’t caught up). At the same time, reach out to the busing liaison at your child’s school and alert them to the issue. If these folks are unable to quickly address things, you may need to contact your CSE district representative (and let your attorney or advocate know too). Sometimes it becomes necessary to bring your child’s IEP to the CSE offices and more or less camp out until you can speak to someone.
Unfortunately, it is the case that many bus routes are not properly assigned when the school year begins. Because this happens so often, we always advise clients that it’s good to have a back-up plan for transportation for the first few weeks of the school year, even if busing is provided for on your child’s IEP.
It’s also not unusual to get your scheduling call from the assigned bus company with your child’s pick-up and drop-off time only a few days before the start of school—even though we’d all like that information a lot earlier. The reason for this is that only after all the routes are assigned can drivers go out into the streets with their vehicles to practice them. These dry runs are how pick up and drop off times are initially set. Try not to panic when you are given a pick-up time of 6:15 am (for example). Most of the time, as the driver learns the route, these times shift forward considerably.
When that big first day arrives, reserve a smile and warm greeting for the driver and matron. Drivers and matrons of course vary in quality, but for the most part they care about kids and take their jobs seriously. It is in your best interest to establish a good relationship with them. They may be willing to give you their phone numbers so that you can be in direct contact (although you can always contact the bus company dispatcher too).
However, if you do have a problem with the driver or matron, or with your child’s busing in general, you can file a complaint with OPT (718-392-8855). Ask your child’s school to do the same. The most common problem we see is a bus that is consistently late for school, and it is much easier to address this if your child’s school is documenting it properly and communicating with OPT.
For the most part, once the route issues are worked out, children love the bus! So hang in there.
This is part two of a two-part article about busing. Part 1 discusses how to secure busing from the DOE.