The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

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The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

The Classic

The Student-Run Newspaper of Townsend Harris High School at Queens College

The Classic

OPINION: Busing issues deprive students with IEPs from equal access to the educational opportunities at THHS

Transportation+issues+for+some+students+with+IEPs+stem+from+requirements+that+allow+for+only+one+drop-off+time+for+each+school.
Katherine Lian
Transportation issues for some students with IEPs stem from requirements that allow for only one drop-off time for each school.
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During the 2022-2023 school year, transportation issues forced me to drop AP Physics 1. This subject presented me with a perfect opportunity to gain exposure to a college-level class required for the STEM career I dream of pursuing. As a blind student, I have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that entitles me to get picked up by a yellow bus so I can travel safely to school on time. Unfortunately, due to city rules in place for bus transportation, I could not get driven to school on time for AP Physics, a zero band class that started at 7:05AM, using the yellow bus service. Without any other options that worked for me, I had to drop the course. 

The Office of Pupil Transportation (OPT) is the citywide organization that is in charge of coordinating yellow bus companies and NYC public schools. Every school sends out a list to OPT of students who require yellow bus services, along with their school’s start and end time. From there, OPT will route each student accordingly, and contact families on the bus scheduling. What makes this responsibility complex is that each student on a bus must be in as close proximity as possible (which makes the jobs of the drivers manageable), along with the fact that each school has its own session time.

Unfortunately, OPT requires each school to have the same start time for all of its students who receive a bus accommodation. However, THHS has certain classes that meet before the school’s official start time of 8AM. These earlier zero band courses offer students different opportunities, and the various opportunities offered at THHS are what make the school attractive to students like me. However, some THHS students who take yellow buses do not have classes before 8AM, and for me to be able to get to class on time at 7AM, all other students at THHS who take a yellow bus would have to wake up much earlier as well. I do not understand why all students need to follow the same start time when the school itself has different start times for different students. OPT should be able to accommodate these distinctions.

In addition to having zero band classes that meet multiple days a week, THHS also offers science lab sessions once a week during zero band. If a student has these lab sessions and has to take a yellow bus, they will also miss out on them. Though the zero band lab session is advertised as a lab period, many teachers use it as a regular instructional class and do labs during the school day. Missing class material that is often essential for understanding future class material is detrimental. It is also detrimental to have to do makeup labs, which do not allow students to actively collaborate and use critical thinking skills in the spur of the moment in solidarity with their peers. Such experience is important for truly understanding content rather than memorizing information/procedures, and a possible long-term effect of not only underperformance in class, but also on standardized exams. 

Since OPT only allows schools to list one session time for the whole year, it was impossible to coordinate every student to be dropped off at their zero band classes, without having to change the start time to 7:00 AM for all other THHS students taking yellow buses. Although the administration has acknowledged the busing issue exists, students have been told to take responsibility for a situation that is not a result of their actions. The administration suggested students take alternate transportation options such as Uber and Access-a-ride. These are convenient options for some and do not require paying additional money, but they do not work for me or my family. To leave students with no way of getting to school in time for zero band classes with the yellow bus is depriving them of an IEP accommodation that they legally are entitled to have. 

Even though some students with IEPs have been able to combat these issues, I was faced with no choice but to use the yellow bus service, arriving at school late and grappling with an unfair academic barrier.

Since zero band is woven intricately into the fabric of THHS culture, not providing proper access to this aspect of a Harrisite experience does not allow for the full measure of one of THHS’s essential aspects. If the city offers me admission to this school then its busing services should be able to accommodate the needs of its students. No one should have to take responsibility for an issue that they did not cause, and the DOE/OPT should accommodate students with different scheduling needs.

In addition, though the THHS administration is aware of this issue, there are ways to avoid the problem I faced. These ways include not programming a course like AP Physics for zero band or working to make sure that essential lessons are not taught in place of labs when students with IEPs are unable to attend. Though there are some issues that are outside of their control, without a change from the DOE/OPT, the administration needs to do more to make sure that another student does not experience what I did. 

It is our right, as Harrisites and students with IEPs, to have the opportunity to take our desired classes, and it is necessary for those in charge to facilitate that access.

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Katherine Lian
Katherine Lian, Multimedia Chief
Katherine Lian is a senior at Townsend High School who enjoys taking pictures, dancing, and trying new things. Her favorite memory with The Classic was her trip to Albany with her peers.
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