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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, July 2, 2022


The Department of Education’s plan to bus St. Croix’s special-needs students to school on Vitran has drawn the threat of a lawsuit.
At the end of November Education officials announced that transportation for special education students, which was being provided by Abramson Enterprises, was being discontinued. Abramson, which also provides regular public school bus service on St. Croix, and the DOE are now in litigation over back pay the government owes the company for busing the special-needs students.
Ralph Mandrew, president of the V.I. Workers Union, which represents Vitran drivers and the special education drivers who work for Abramson, said the drivers who transport special-needs students are trained for the job. In addition, he said, Abramson buses are specially equipped and carry a trained aide to assist the children.
Because of the safety aspect and the fact that the government made the decision to use Vitran for special education transport without consulting the union, Mandrew said he plans on filing an injunction against the plan.
"Let me make this clear," Mandrew said, "the V.I. Workers Union intends to file an injunction if they go through with this. This is a unilateral change.
"The question is will the government be hiring extra people to ride those buses?"
Education officials couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday. Sen. Norman Jean Baptiste, chairman of the Senate’s Education Committee, was doubtful of the plan. He said federal and local law mandates that aides and special equipment be made available to special education students.
Compounding Baptiste’s doubts was a committee meeting he held last month to discuss the issue, but education officials, including Education Commissioner Ruby Simmonds, failed to show. Those officials have been subpoenaed for the next meeting on Jan. 19.
"I don’t see the wisdom of the Department of Education transferring the service to Vitran," Baptiste said.

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