AMSTERDAM, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Parents across Amsterdam face tough decisions to keep or lose their jobs now that they’re about to lose easy access to childcare. The Greater Amsterdam School District remains firm it will stop busing students to local daycares, now setting an end date of January 17.
“I’ve even tried to think about if I could use my lunch break here and go and pick them up from school and then rush over to the daycare to drop them off, but it’s not feasible,” says mom of three, Laree Ochoa.
Back during the October 12 Board of Education meeting, it was declared November 23 would be the cut off date. However, when NEWS10 asked on November 3 about the decision, Ruberti said the board suspended any changes until after the November 16 board meeting, acknowledging parents complained about the lack of notice. He cited the bus driver shortage as the reason the district needed an adjustment.
A representative of Ruberti’s office also previously responded to NEWS10 that while the issue was broached at that meeting, it was not a formal agenda item and the board did not publicly vote at that time. An email from Ruberti on Wednesday responding to NEWS10 questions reads in part:
As you are aware this has certainly been a difficult decision for this year and we hope that in future years with sufficient drivers we will be able to reinstate this bus service. Today I sent letters to the parents of children at the various daycares to let them know that we will continue to provide busing through January 13th as January 17th will be the first day that we will not have busing.Superintendent Richard Ruberti, Greater Amsterdam School District
Ochoa says as a single mom of three, she can only maintain her job with the help of daycare and the school buses that get them there. She also says the district never informed parents before now or encouraged them to engage at board meetings.
“I haven’t been told of anything, so if I would’ve been told then, yeah I would’ve been a part of it, but I don’t get any feedback from the school,” she explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.
Another parent who did not wish to speak on camera tells NEWS10 the district is now pushing its in-school before and after programs, but they only open at 7 a.m. and last until 6 p.m.
“My job starts at six [a.m.] so that’s just not going to help me,” they write.
“A lot of the calls I’ve gotten were people who were very concerned. They’re not sure what they can do, what options they have. A lot of them feel they don’t have a voice,” says Steve Gomula, the 4th Ward Alderperson on the Amsterdam Common Council.
He says from the calls he’s received, he is very concerned about the ripple effects such a cut off may have.
“Many of these parents are distribution center workers, some of them are in the healthcare industry, and staffing there is already a consistent problem. If they can’t work because they need to stay home with their children, then that will slow down production and patient care and such things could become a mess for the community,” Gomula says.
He further adds the city can’t compel the district to offer bus service, but they’re looking at their own alternatives. Gomula says he’s already spoken to Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort to inquire about expanding the county’s small bus service. However, since he was informed the service can’t handle the additional capacity, Gomula says he’s exploring other avenues.
“I reached out to CDTA. I haven’t heard from them yet, but they recently expanded their service here to Amsterdam and we are going to see if maybe they can expand it a little more and help us out with the situation,” he explains. “I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to fix the problem entirely, but we’re going to try.”