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Buffalo Public Schools plan to test $10 gas cards for students

The back of a snowy school bus
Bradley Gee/Flickr

Buffalo School Board members agreed on two things last evening: problems with yellow buses are leaving kids sometimes waiting a long time for the bus to show up, and the kids and sometimes their caregivers get very cold.

"Kids don't want to get up. Parents are fighting with their children to get them out of bed because they don't want to stand on the corner, wait all day for a bus to come, that's not coming or hasn't arrived," said Board Member Terrance Heard, "and they don't want to see their elderly caregivers, their mothers or their grandparents or grandfathers who care for them to be on the corner waiting on them outside in the cold, while they are cold waiting for the kids."

Board Member Sharon Belton-Cottman wants to install a system of gasoline cards for parents who contract to drive their kids to school, $10 each day.

Belton-Cottman said money for gas would get kids to school on time.

"Because I know that I will have additional money and I could maybe get a neighbor to drive me if I don't have my own car to get my child off the street, from standing on the corner being cold. That I'm given one more opportunity, one more opportunity, to eliminate a barrier that may exist between me and my child standing on that corner," she said.

It could also mean that child missing some of the class day and potentially getting a breakfast much later than scheduled.

Schools Superintendent Kriner Cash said there are serious administrative issues involved for gas cards, demonstrated in cities like Philadelphia which use the cards. School officials also said transportation issues have eased, as drivers recover from the Omicron variant.

School transportation officials said there are around 350 kids having serious transportation problems, while supporters of the gas cards say it may be as many as 1,000. There might be a survey to figure it out.

"We're all on the same page. Let's get something done," said Board Member Jennifer Mecozzi. "But we're literally throwing hurdles in our own way because we can't seem to get on the same page. Everybody's got an issue. There's a beginning to it, so let's incorporate all that in the narrative in the current resolution. The pushback on whether or not we amend the current resolution, there shouldn't be any because we're trying to make it great."

Board President Louis Petrucci set up a committee to listen to all of the suggestions from the other board members to put together a plan — at least for a test — later this year to see if the idea can work, be legal and possibly start in the fall. There will possibly be a vote at the board meeting Feb. 16.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.