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HomeNewsArchivesJUDGE GIVES D.O.E. A WEEK TO SOLVE SPECIAL ED BUSING

JUDGE GIVES D.O.E. A WEEK TO SOLVE SPECIAL ED BUSING

A District Court judge Monday gave the V.I. Department of Education a week to find transportation for some 80 public school special education students on St. Croix.
Last week, V.I. Advocacy Inc., a watchdog group for people with disabilities, filed a class action suit over the DOE’s "failure … to provide accessible transportation for students with disabilities." Lawyers for V.I. Advocacy point to federal law that says no individual with a disability shall be discriminated against by the government because of his or her condition.
Instead of the scheduled hearing on Monday, Judge Raymond Finch presided over a conference aimed at allowing the DOE to find a company capable of transporting students to and from their schools.
Finch scheduled a hearing for Friday at 10 a.m. to check the department’s progress.
"By the end of the week, the Department of Education will hopefully have had an opportunity to talk to all the service providers of transportation," said Amelia Headley LaMont, executive director of V.I. Advocacy.
Finch, LaMont and Education attorney Tregenza Roach declined to comment on what companies may be considered, though representatives from Wheel Coach Ambulance Services Inc. were present at the conference.
"The judge is going to give us an opportunity to work out an agreement," Roach said.
Of St. Croix's 80 special education students in need of transportation, 16 to 20 are in wheelchairs, said LaMont.
In November, DOE officials announced that busing for special education students, which was being provided by Abramson Enterprises, was being discontinued. It was reported that Abramson, which also provides regular public school bus service on St. Croix, and the DOE were in litigation over back pay the government owed the company for busing the special-needs students.
In a Senate Education Committee hearing last week, DOE officials said the Abramson partnership was ended because funding for the four-year, $2.2 million busing contract, scheduled to end in September 2000, ran out last August.
LaMont, meanwhile, said the DOE’s argument as to why it hasn’t provided transportation for special educations students was "indefensible." She said many of the students haven’t been able to attend classes since Oct. 27.
"It’s not just an issue of not having transportation," she said, "but also an issue of lost education time."
LaMont said she hopes the DOE will be able to begin busing many of the students to and from their schools Thursday or Friday.
In December the DOE announced that when school resumed in January Vitran would transport the special education students. That idea, however, spurred protests from parents of special education students and union officials. They argued that the public transportation system was not staffed with drivers and aides trained to work with special-needs passengers.
LaMont said at least 20 of the special education students need to be accompanied by an aide on bus rides.
In the end, Finch was upbeat about the prospect of finding a solution to the problem without the two sides having to litigate.
"They have some details to work out," he said. "But there will be an agreement."

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A District Court judge Monday gave the V.I. Department of Education a week to find transportation for some 80 public school special education students on St. Croix.
Last week, V.I. Advocacy Inc., a watchdog group for people with disabilities, filed a class action suit over the DOE’s "failure ... to provide accessible transportation for students with disabilities." Lawyers for V.I. Advocacy point to federal law that says no individual with a disability shall be discriminated against by the government because of his or her condition.
Instead of the scheduled hearing on Monday, Judge Raymond Finch presided over a conference aimed at allowing the DOE to find a company capable of transporting students to and from their schools.
Finch scheduled a hearing for Friday at 10 a.m. to check the department’s progress.
"By the end of the week, the Department of Education will hopefully have had an opportunity to talk to all the service providers of transportation," said Amelia Headley LaMont, executive director of V.I. Advocacy.
Finch, LaMont and Education attorney Tregenza Roach declined to comment on what companies may be considered, though representatives from Wheel Coach Ambulance Services Inc. were present at the conference.
"The judge is going to give us an opportunity to work out an agreement," Roach said.
Of St. Croix's 80 special education students in need of transportation, 16 to 20 are in wheelchairs, said LaMont.
In November, DOE officials announced that busing for special education students, which was being provided by Abramson Enterprises, was being discontinued. It was reported that Abramson, which also provides regular public school bus service on St. Croix, and the DOE were in litigation over back pay the government owed the company for busing the special-needs students.
In a Senate Education Committee hearing last week, DOE officials said the Abramson partnership was ended because funding for the four-year, $2.2 million busing contract, scheduled to end in September 2000, ran out last August.
LaMont, meanwhile, said the DOE’s argument as to why it hasn’t provided transportation for special educations students was "indefensible." She said many of the students haven’t been able to attend classes since Oct. 27.
"It’s not just an issue of not having transportation," she said, "but also an issue of lost education time."
LaMont said she hopes the DOE will be able to begin busing many of the students to and from their schools Thursday or Friday.
In December the DOE announced that when school resumed in January Vitran would transport the special education students. That idea, however, spurred protests from parents of special education students and union officials. They argued that the public transportation system was not staffed with drivers and aides trained to work with special-needs passengers.
LaMont said at least 20 of the special education students need to be accompanied by an aide on bus rides.
In the end, Finch was upbeat about the prospect of finding a solution to the problem without the two sides having to litigate.
"They have some details to work out," he said. "But there will be an agreement."