The city is in secret talks to buy out three school bus companies, and to operate their 1,300 vehicles itself, sources told The Post.
Right now the Department of Education contracts with multiple firms that provide a total of 10,000 buses to transport about 150,000 students a year.
DOE spokeswoman Miranda Barbot refused to comment on the pending deals, saying only, “Families will know more in advance of the start of school, and we are in final negotiations with our bus companies for transportation in the fall.”
In a school reopening plan sent Friday to the state Department of Health, the DOE says the COVID-19 pandemic may prevent the city from providing bus service for all students — and some might get MetroCards instead. Others will have to take a hike.
“The DOE is recommending that families, wherever possible, help reduce the number of students in need of busing by either transporting their children to school on their own, walking, or biking,” the plan states.
While aiming to transport all students in public and private schools who normally ride buses, including children with special needs, “it may not be possible to provide transportation through a conventional mode such as a bus, and may require other modes to be employed,” the plan adds.
The filing comes as several representatives of bus companies and the drivers’ union said they have yet to receive any DOE marching orders for the school reopening, tentatively set for Sept. 10. The DOE says students will attend in-person classes one to three days a week, while learning remotely the other days. Families who want full-time remote instruction can choose that option.
If bus service is provided, students must wear face coverings at all times and sit at required social distancing, except for members of the same household. This will reduce the typical bus passenger capacity by about 25%, the plan states.
But bus personnel will not decide if kids are sick — that’s up to parents, the plan states: “Parents should screen their children prior to boarding a bus to make certain that their child is well enough to board a bus and attend school, which may include temperature checks as needed. Bus personnel will not be administering screening prior to buses being boarded.”
All DOE school buses will be cleaned and disinfected each day, it says, adding that parents will need to read these specifics to assure their children will not have an “adverse reaction” to the chemicals.
The plan comes as the DOE has yet to directly inform parents about bus transportation services and safety protocols.
Even City Councilman Mark Treyger, the education committee chairman, said top DOE officials have ignored his repeated questions on the issue.
“I have been asking the DOE if they have executed any school bus contracts and I get radio silence,” Treyger told The Post. “They leave everyone in the dark.”