Sept. 11 ban on bus trips lifted by School Bd. 2525254

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School Board 25 voted to allow students take field trips on buses within the district last week, reversing a policy that had been put into effect since the World Trade Center disaster on Sept. 11.

But the board left field trips outside of the district off limits for the time being.

“A lot of parents don’t understand why we can’t take trips to the Queens Botanical Gardens,” said David Rothstein, a member of the Board 25, which covers Flushing, Whitestone, College Point, Bay Terrace, and parts of Auburndale and Fresh Meadows. Rothstein was one of seven school board members who voted to allow school bus trips within the district.

Despite the vote, many members expressed concern about changing the policy, which was implemented after two hijacked passenger jets slammed into the World Trade Center.

“I think we are in an even worse situation that we were before,” said Arlene Fleishman, vice president of SB 25, referring to the anthrax scare. “We don’t even know what’s going on day to day. It even bothers me that we have to put so many of these children on bright yellow buses every morning to go to school.”

School Board 25 President Judith Bergtraum initially agreed with Fleishman.

“I think we should err on the side of caution,” she said.

School Board 25 members Vincent Dwyer and Kenneth Cohen were the most vocal about changing the policy. Dwyer emphasized that the lack of trips was hurting some Queens organizations economically.

“This affects our friends at the Flushing Council of the Arts tremendously,” he said.

Dwyer suggested that the board should consider allowing school trips outside the district, both to other areas of Queens as well as to Manhattan, but his suggestion received little support.

“Day to day things are happening, and we don’t want kids too far from the district,” said Michelle Fratti.

The issue of school trips was just one of the items discussed by board members in an environment that has changed radically since Sept. 11, when two hijacked airplanes flew into the Twin Towers, killing thousands.

Fratti discussed the need to develop a more comprehensive plan if acts of terrorism continue to disrupt the city.

“If we do need to evacuate the school, where is the evacuation site they are going to?” she asked.

While the time and nature of future terrorist attacks in New York City remain uncertain, budget problems are a clear problem for School Board 25 as well as almost every other municipal organization.

“In light of what’s going on, there is little to no chance that we will recover the $391 million that has been cut from our budgets,” said Fratti, referring to the cuts to the Board of Education budget enacted before Sept. 11.

School Board 25 has produced the second-highest reading scores in Queens and the third highest in the city, according to its deputy superintendent, Harvey Sherer, and it has been praised for reducing class sizes in the past year. While class size in District 25 has increased despite the recent cuts, members feared that any further cuts would destroy their recent gains.

“The mayor said that another 2.5 percent cut is possible,” said Fratti. “We would really be devastated by those cuts.”

Reach Reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at or call 229-0300 Ext. 141.

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