Off on the Wrong Foot

So.  The new school year begins on Monday.

We’ve been building up to this all summer, trying to keep him from back-sliding as much as possible, and now the day is finally here.

The Monster is returning on Monday to Garrett Heights Elementary-Middle School, specifically to rejoin the “Together We Grow” program that he was in last year for Pre-K.  He has the same teacher, and perhaps some of the same classmates, but other than that, it is a kindergarten class that will try to stick to the standard curriculum.

The problem, though is….

Bussing.  (You didn’t really think that the bussing issue was going to disappear, did you?)

Coming into this week, we hadn’t been notified as to his bussing assignment, since he has to travel across town to the school.  When I called on Tuesday, I was informed that the bussing letters had “just been mailed yesterday”, and that we should have the information by Thursday or Friday.  We returned from our respective meetings (my dads’ support group, the wife’s choir rehearsal) last night to find a robocall on our answering machine that told us that we’d get “a personal phone call” on Friday regarding the bus assignment, and the letter would reach us “by Saturday”.  Uh-huh.

Well, by 5:20 PM, the schools hadn’t called, so I took the bull by the horns and called them.  Surprise!  The woman I spoke to (who didn’t want to identify herself the first two times I asked her name) had no information on his bus save for the pick-up and drop-off times…. which would have him on the bus for 75 minutes going to school, and 90 minutes coming back.  I demanded that she have her supervisor call me and ended the call.

My son – the Monster, not R – has a couple of things in his IEP that the schools should have informed Transportation about.  He’s not fully toilet-trained, and a 75-90 minute bus-ride seriously ups the ante that he’s going to have an accident on the bus.  Plus… who puts a special-needs child on a 75-90 minute bus ride?  Further, not knowing what bus he’s on, she can’t answer whether or not the bus has a carseat, as stipulated by his IEP.  I was fuming, and spent a good while pacing the house like a caged animal trying to calm down, before writing the CEO of Schools to let her know exactly what I thought of this situation.  (That’s the nice way, dearest readers, to say “Dad Enough threatened legal action to the limit permitted by IDEA.”)

The deputy head of transportation called me back about 45 minutes after my conversation with the transportation department, providing me with a bus number and confirming the pick-up/drop-off times… with Durham Bus Services, the company that absolutely f***ed up the Monster’s bussing last year. This man dealt with me last year – he was on the mail that I sent to the city regarding the non-performance of this company and my absolute outrage at their being allowed to be a vendor for the Baltimore City School System.  So I laid into him about how I have massive, unmitigated problems with this company being the provider for the Monster, much less the 75-90 minute bus ride, and I pointed out to him the issues above.  He was shocked, entirely shocked, that no one seemed to notice/care that Durham’s bus forgot the Monster two of the last three days of school, or that they were severely late ten percent of the time.  “Give me a week to try to straighten this out and make sure they’ll be on time,” he insisted, politely.  “We’ll see what we can do.”

“You have until the first time they’re late, or until he has an accident,” I replied, shaking with range.  “And then I will fix it.”  (I will neither confirm nor deny that I reminded him about the penalties for willful violation of a child’s IEP, much less the lengths that I would go – legally speaking – to make people regret having done so.)

He called back fifteen minutes later with a counter-offer – that he’d thought he had a decent lead on an alternative, with another vendor, that would shorten the Monster’s ride to school.  Could I give him until tomorrow to figure that one out?

I have to admit that I have few hopes that it’s not going to be the scheduled Durham bus picking him up on Monday.  They had best hope that they’re on time, whoever they are, on Monday morning.

 

NOTE TO MY READERS:  If you are in our area and having similar problems, please say something below in my comments and share this post around to your friends.  I want to start organizing the parents in the Baltimore City schools – if we don’t speak up, they’re going to keep pretending that they don’t have any problems with their transportation system.

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