When Krystle Smith was born, doctors told her father, Michael Smith, she might not live through the night. Eighteen years later, she’s proved them wrong.
“They said she would never walk. She would never talk. She’s doing all of it,” her dad said, as he tied her shoes before school one morning this week.
She doesn’t just walk and talk — she dances and sings in the living room of her father’s Gowanus apartment.
What You Need To Know
- Krystle Smith, 18, is disabled and takes the yellow bus to her public school every day
- But last week, the bus did not come a single day, leaving her stuck at home
- The city says it has issued a violation to the bus company serving her route
- But it's a common problem for students with disabilities, many of whom rely on yellow bus service
It’s part of Krystle’s routine every single morning.
After brushing her teeth and washing her face, she and her father have a little dance party.
Then, she heads to school at P.S. 721, the Brooklyn Occupational Training Center, in Coney Island.
“It’s a very good school. She loves her therapy, the people who give her therapy,” her father said.
But getting there is the hard part.
“The busing, she’s been there about four years, and every year it gets a little bit worse,” he said.
Each day last week, Smith woke his daughter at 5:30 a.m. and got her ready.
He got the same phone call each day.
“We do all this, and then ten minutes before I’m taking her down, no bus at a.m., and no bus in the afternoon,” he said.
Smith says it’s just the latest problem with his child’s transportation to school — a frustration shared by many parents of children with disabilities, who often rely on school buses to get to specialized programs that may be far from their homes.
“Explanation? No explanation. School? No explanation. OPT, office of pupil transportation, no explanation. You get no explanation from nowhere,” he said.
The Education Department told NY1 it was due to an unplanned driver absence.
“The student has been issued a new route, and the vendor is being issued a violation for failure to provide a substitute driver and notify our student-transportation office—which we require of all vendors,” spokeswoman Jenna Lyle said. “If anyone is experiencing any issues with busing service, they should notify their school’s transportation coordinator, who will work quickly to address any issues.”
Problems have only been worsened by a driver shortage.
The city started the year with 500 fewer drivers than they needed. That number is now down to 300, the DOE says.
For Krystle, no bus meant no school last week.
And that made her feel, in her words: “Sad.”
But, this week was better. Starting on Monday, the bus was back.
“When that bus came at seven o’clock,” Krystle’s father said. “I was happy. I was really happy.”