Attendance Rises Slightly on Day Two of School Bus Strike

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The Department of Education said student attendance was a little higher on the second day of the school bus strike, about 90 percent overall. But schools serving students with serious disabilities continue to be hardest hit, because their students rely so heavily on yellow buses.

Attendance at District 75 schools, which serve the most severely disabled students, was less than 50 percent on the first day of the strike, but it rose to almost 63 percent Thursday.

The city said average January daily attendance at District 75 schools before the strike was 83 percent.

The city also says protesters tried to block vehicles from leaving at 11 bus depots. Two people were arrested, one at a Bronx depot for disorderly conduct and another in Staten Island for criminal trespassing.

Some buses are still running because they don't use workers from the striking union, Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union.

On Thursday, the D.O.E. said 2,320 bus routes out of approximately 7,700 total routes were running. That was slightly less than on the first day of the strike when 3000 routes were running.

It's unclear why the number fell. Workers at bus companies that have contracts with other unions are not allowed to strike, unlike those in Local 1181.

More than 152,000 students rely on yellow buses to get to public schools, and to private schools if the children have disabilities or qualify for free and reduced price lunch. The strike left more than 100,000 of them without any buses.

Sunset Park parent Nancy Groves has been taking the train to drop off her 6-year old son Gus at an elementary school in Park Slope. She said this makes her 30 minutes late for her job at the United Nations.

"Hopefully this won't last too long," she said Thursday morning. "My supervisor is pretty flexible and understanding but my son does have some special needs so the change in routine can be a bit tough on him, plus he really enjoys taking the bus with his friends."

If the strike continues, Groves says she'll start making arrangements with neighbors to take turns dropping off kids.

The union is striking because the city removed long-held employee protection provisions from contracts now going out to bid for more than 1,000 special education routes. These protections ensure that if one route is picked up by another bus company, workers will be hired back at the same salaries and with their current seniority privileges.

The city argues that it must remove these protections from all new contracts because a 2011 court ruling found they're illegal. But the union claims that ruling applied only to a select batch of pre-K bus contracts had always been exempt from the employee protections.

Union protesters plan to demonstrate outside the Department of Education's headquarters in Lower Manhattan on Friday.

With reporting by WNYC's Stephen Nessen