School Bus Roulette/IEP Time

Preparing to enter 5th Grade, Riley’s IEP is scheduled for Friday, March 23rd.

That Riley would be entering 5th Grade is a strange concept.  How can a child who cannot speak and does not know there is such a thing as math enter 5th Grade?  I’ll need to ponder this later, however; it is not my concern of the moment.

The Functional Skills Classroom at Rayma C. Page Elementary is a blessing!  Years ago, Spring Creek Elementary shut their doors on us.  The new school assignment was somewhere in North Fort Myers, Orangewood over 22 miles north of us.  No.  This began my first rally with the school system.  Eventually, Rayma’s  Principal agreed to open their doors to us.

Riley is doing beautifully in his current classroom.   There is really no reason to be stressed about his IEP.  At least there was no reason until two weeks ago. Unfortunately, I do not know if the IEP has any sway over my concerns.  The problem is the bus ride.  For once, the driver and assistants have been steady, trustworthy and reliable all year.  The Transportation Department is a different story.  They are impenetrable.   Calls to the director’s office go unanswered.   If I could I would quote their website to them:  The Transportation Department is working hard to improve safety, improve customer service, and timely pickups and drop-offs of students. In conjunction with the new student assignment plan, the District is working improve routes and reduce student travel time.  If they had my sons’ interests in mind that would not be a problem.  But as they add more and more students to the accessible bus Riley rides, his bus ride is now over two hours.  As we live on the edge of the county lines, Riley is almost always the first child on in the morning and the last off in the evening.  I believe he loads on the bus at the end of the school day around 3:15 pm to arrive home after 5:20 pm.  He is tolerating the ride very well…. but that should not be the litmus test if it is right or not.  That length of time is not fair to any child.  For a nonverbal child in a wheelchair, it is an unreasonable expectation.  The longer he sits in that chair, the more cramped he becomes and the more likely he is to have muscle spasms, which we all know add to seizure activity.  It takes away time from interactions, play, therapy and everything else he should be doing and diminishes his quality of life.

Now, if you are like everyone else – thanks so much by the way for the complete lack of empathy – you say, why don’t you drive him.  I drove him 3 years.  The car is now 11 years old.  Gas prices are astonishingly high.  It takes a great amount of my time and energy to load Riley and a wheelchair, drive them and unload again.  This is a far different assignment than it is when we instruct our typically developing child to hop in and out of a car.  May I also remind these people that one purpose of Riley attending school is to keep our life and family functioning.   I did ask about reimbursements for being my child’s  transportation; this will only happen if the transportation department deems our stop impossible for them to provide.  I am wondering at what point they actually decide this and if ever they do…

This long ride has completely destroyed the entire purpose of lobbying for a closer school for Riley when I said the other school was simply too far.  Our bus issues have been ongoing (Bus Driver Roulette, Let’s Play Bus Driver Roulette Again and School Begins Bus Driver Roulette). Is it possible to limit school bus ride time via the IEP.  I highly doubt it but I can ask.  To be fair, there are individuals within the transportation department who are sympathetic to our concerns.  It appears that there is nothing they can do however.  I invited our ESE transportation supervisor to our IEP; if they want to be such a large part of Riley’s day then they should also take responsibility for his well-being and participate in this process.  I suspect that the department will throw their walls up even higher at my request.  Are there simply too few ESE buses and drivers?  Will they continue to add to the fleet for the regular buses every time funds are available.  I am most certain that for the regular school population that an uproar would happen if those children were given a two hour bus ride.

What do I do next?  Do I really let them do this to my child?  I cannot fight a brick wall and being a brick wall protects this department very well.

 

Looks like I have some research to do.  The Special Needs Parenting Florida Facebook group shared the following for me to look into: http://www.fldoe.org/ese/pdf/1b-stats.pdf.  They also suggest contacting Charles Hood, Administrator, FLDOE.  I’ll see how that goes.

We are all special… by Stacie Wiesenbaugh

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