‘Amazing Grace’ hired to bus special ed students

GLOVERSVILLE & JOHNSTOWN — In a move aimed at trying to maintain student busing services amid the local school bus driver shortage, the Gloversville Enlarged School District is partnering with HFM BOCES and the Greater Johnstown School District to hire a private company to transport special education students placed at private schools outside of the two districts.

GESD Superintendent David Halloran said HFM BOCES brokered the deal to hire Schenectady-based Amazing Grace Transportation to handle the out-of-district bus routes.

He said the cost for Gloversville’s share of the contract will be approximately $300,000 for the private company to provide bus transportation for GESD’s 14 special education students, accounting for four bus runs.

“With our 90% transportation aid from New York state, the cost will be $27,000, roughly, and that runs through June 30 (2023), that’s a pretty good return on our investment,” Halloran said. “There’s been a labor shortage across many areas, and transportation is certainly one of them, to the point where we’re in a position where we have to prioritize bus runs, in case a bus driver was out at HFM BOCES.”

Bus transportation service for secondary students in both Gloversville and Johnstown was abruptly canceled on Sept. 26, 2021. While that shutdown was mostly attributed to an outbreak of COVID-19 among the already depleted bus driver staff of HFM BOCES, the labor shortage has persisted, leaving the bus transportation system with thin margins to accommodate absences among its drivers.

Back in September, Halloran, in a letter sent home to parents and released on the internet by the district, warned that GESD might be forced to temporarily suspend some bus routes due to the bus driver shortage.

GESD School Board President Robert Curtis said Friday that for the fall 2022 semester, the school district was forced to temporarily cancel two bus runs, one day for each run. He said he hopes the contract with Amazing Grace will help prevent that from happening again.

“It’s not an ideal situation having to contract out the four bus runs, but given the current staffing situation, it makes sense,” Curtis said. “This will allow for some flexibility in scheduling to cover driver absences and ensure our extracurricular runs can be covered.”

Halloran explained that all local school districts are obligated by law to pay for the education of students living in their districts up to the age of 21, including some students with severe special education needs. He said that while GESD tries to keep as many special education students in-house as possible, for some students — those with severe Autism spectrum disorder learning disabilities — sending them to private schools that have the facilities, faculty and programs tailored specifically to their needs, is the only efficient way to educate them. He said those private schools are located in the cities of Albany, Schenectady and Troy, and require four daily bus routes, to and from those facilities, for GESD’s 14 out-of-district special education placement students. He said the multi-agency bus contract with Amazing Grace should help shore up the bus transportation services provided to students in Gloversville and Johnstown.

“This [contract with Amazing Grace Transportation] gives us four bus drivers back in the organization to cover absenteeism, due to sickness, personal days, things that happen,” Halloran said. “This will allow us to have our sports [bus] runs at a reasonable time, which will allow the contests to start, say up in the Northway corridor schools, the time they are supposed to. It will allow us to do field trips during the school day, if you have a special run, say to a museum in Albany, for a class or something like that. It provides us some breathing room, flexibility, for things you were able to do, when the labor shortage wasn’t an issue.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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