Boston parents struggle to get children to school in wake of bus drivers’ surprise strike
For many Boston parents, today turned into a mad dash to get their children to and from school. Here are some vignettes from around the city:
Holland Elementary, Dorchester: As school let out this afternoon, parents and students recounted a harried day of figuring out how to get to and from school.
One Holland student said a police officer took her to school. Another student, Deiyeris DeJesus, a fifth-grader, said that she had to take a taxi to school in the morning because her schoolbus did not show up.
It made me feel nervous, because this has never happened before,” said the 10-year-old student.
Maria Depina, in purple scrubs and her name tag, works the evening shift and left home early to get her 6-year-old son Eliezer when the doors shut for the day at the Holland.
“The bus broke,” Eliezer said as he sat in the backseat of his mother’s car. “No. They are on strike,” Depina responded.
Lynn Bennett of Dorchester said she had already arrived at work when her mother called and told her that the bus never came. It took her an hour to get back to Dorchester and drop off her 6-year-old son at the Holland.
I had to take the whole day off from work,” Bennett said as she picked up her son. “It didn’t make sense to go back when school gets off at 2 p.m.”
Dorchester Avenue and Ashmont Street: Around 7:30 a.m. Tinh Le and his 8-year-old daughter stood at their usual spot waiting for their yellow schoolbus to arrive.
When the bus did not show up because of the drivers’ strike, they crossed the street, hoping, waiting.
“I guess we have to go to school by car,” he said to his daughter, Trinity.
“How long will that take?” she asked.
As he attempted to head back, a flustered young mother shouted out the news.
“No schoolbus today!” said the mother, Georgina Lara, holding a cellphone.
“I’m mad and I have to go to work and I have to get my kid to school,” said Lara of Dorchester.
Her son is 5 and, like Trinity, attends Condon Elementary.
Along Talbot Avenue, mothers were walking their children to school or the MBTA bus stop.
Khadijah White was taking her 5-year-old son Denzell to her job nearby, where his father would pick him up.
His bus is supposed to pick him up at Talbot and Norwell at 7:59 a.m. but is usually late, she said. In fact, it came around 8:20 a.m. Monday, forcing her to rely on another parent to drive him, she said.
White said school officials called and told her that some buses would not be running, but she came to the bus stop, anyway, hoping one would show up and take her son to Russell School on Columbia Road.
“Another parent said that she would drive him to school, but her car wouldn’t start,” said White.
While she was at the bus stop, a police officer rode by and told them the buses would be on strike.
For some children whose unwitting parents left them at bus stops, the answer was a Boston police car.
Police officers working the overnight shift were ordered to continue working and to scour the streets for kids left in the lurch by the strike. Scores of officers patrolled the streets, some of them just advising children what had happened and others actually giving them a lift.
“Kids had a ball, thought it was fun,” said one police officer.
William Monroe Trotter Innovation School on Humboldt Avenue, parents expressed outrage and dismay over the havoc that strike has caused on what should have been a typical morning.
Brenda Medina of Roxbury said she had no idea of the strike until her 11-year-old called her around 7 a.m. from Washington and Dale streets where he normally waits for the 6:30 a.m. bus to take him to middle school in Roslindale.
“He said, ‘Mommy I’ve been standing here waiting for the bus and there is no bus,’” Medina said.
After going to get him, she realized the School Department had called her, alerting her of the transportation strike.
She gathered her other two children, ages 6 and 1, and began their morning. She took her oldest to school in Roslindale, her 6-year-old to first grade in Roxbury, and her 1-year-old to day care.
“I ended up packing everyone in PJs in the car and driving him to school,” she said. “We had breakfast in the car.”
The morning was also rough for Lydia Lopez of Dorchester, who said she had to improvise when her children’s school bus did not show up as usual. She took them by MBTA bus to the Trotter. It took them 45 minutes, and they were late, she said.
“It’s so last minute,” Lopez said of the strike. “It’s not right. What really concerns me are the children who were outside waiting for their buses and their parents were already at work. It’s just sad.”
At the Curley K-8 in Jamaica Plain, Altuin Baez, 33, of Dorchester, said he had to take a public bus from Dorchester to bring his three children to school, where they arrived about an hour late.
“They need to find an accord,” he said. “They can’t keep doing this. This affects a lot of people, both parents and kids.”
Kathy Diaz, 33, of Roxbury, said she had to walk her 11-year-old son across the city from Roxbury to get him to the Curley. She had to bring her baby to day care early and her son missed breakfast at the Curley, where he arrived 45 minutes late.
“I think this strike is silly,” she said. “I heard it’s about the bus drivers not wanting to use GPS. But GPS is everywhere now. What do they have to hide?” Diaz asked.
She said the strike messed up her day.
“It makes it harder for me to find a job,” she said.
Anna Mendes, 40, of Dorchester, said she was lucky because she had the day off today. However, she worries about the strike continuing.
“If I don’t have someone to help me pickup my kids from school, I’m going to have to miss work,” said Mendes, who said she works as a cashier at Dunkin’ Donuts. “I’m hoping they will work this out right away.”
At the Academy of the Pacific Rim Charter School in Hyde Park, the strike frustrated teachers who had to reschedule tests and lesson plans, parents who had to juggle plans for getting kids to and from school, and students who lost school time, said Susan Thompson, executive director.
Buses transport fifth- and sixth-graders to the school, which serves grades 5 through 12. Out of 150 kids who take buses, only about 100 had made it two hours after school started, although some were still trickling in, said James Nardo, the lower school principal. The school draws students mainly from Hyde Park, Mattapan, and Dorchester.
Angry and frustrated parents asked the school for alternative transportation, which the school cannot provide, Thompson said.
At Bridge Boston Charter School in Dorchester, executive director Jug Chokshi said: “It makes a real difficult situation for a lot of our families. It impacts how and if they will get to work. It really has a big impact on them personally and what they do.”
About 20 kids out of about 140 were not in school, Chokshi said. The school has grades in K-1, K-2, first, and second.
“The parents didn’t have a heads up at all,” Chokshi added. “I feel there could’ve been a different approach,” and the strikers could have alerted people earlier that there might be a strike, so people could plan.
“I hope it doesn’t go on too long. If it does, it impacts the personal lives of our parents and the school quite significantly.”Maria Cramer of the Globe staff contributed to this report.