Don’t take us for a ride!
The parents of more than 1,700 students at prestigious Bronx High School of Science have accused a bus company of ripping them off during the pandemic.
The Department of Education gives high school kids free MetroCards, but public transportation trips to and from the Kingsbridge campus take as long as two hours for some students, who come from all over the city.
So each family paid Vallo Transportation $3,000 to $4,600 upfront for faster private rides for their kids, depending on where they live, for the entire school year.
But after schools shut down mid-March due to COVID-19, the families started asking for some money back. They cited the Vallo contract and emails from the company promising pro-rated refunds.
They say they’ve received only a small fraction of what they are due, according to a lawsuit filed May 28 in Queens Supreme Court.
Each family is owed about 40 percent of the yearly cost, the suit claims. That comes to about $1,200 to $1,800 for the three-and-a-half month shutdown, a total of approximately $2.1 million, said their lawyer Marc Held.
Instead, Vallo sent every family a check for $124.24 in late May, saying the refund was based on its estimated savings on “tolls, fuel, and wear and tear.”
“The refunds are disgraceful, considering the profits Vallo has made on the backs of these parents and the federal stimulus money the company received,” Held said. Public records show the Queens-based company got between $1 million and $2 million from the feds in April.
“Many of the Bronx Science students come from the five boroughs, and are from poor, or low-income families, many who lost their jobs during COVID, and work hard just to be able to afford the transportation,” Held said.
One student’s father, who is unemployed and undergoing chemotherapy, told The Post his family needs the refund.
“There’s no other money coming in,” said the dad, who didn’t want to be identified because Vallo may transport his child when Bronx Science reopens for in-person classes. Classes at all city high schools are currently online.
Vallo also transported 300 students from the High School for American Studies at Lehman College, another specialized high school.
Vallo president Linda DeSabato declined to comment.