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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.

J.C.Rice

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.”

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Biden administration resumes Taliban peace talks

(CNN)The US is sending negotiators to the Middle East to restart peace negotiations with the Taliban for the first time in the Biden administration, the State Department announced Sunday.

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad will travel to Afghanistan and Qatar, where he will meet with Afghan government officials on the trip as well as with Taliban representatives."(Khalilizad) will resume discussions on the way ahead with the Islamic Republic and Afghan leaders, Taliban representatives, and regional countries whose interests are best served by the achievement of a just and durable political settlement and permanent and comprehensive ceasefire," the statement said.
    Khalilzad was the US top negotiator with the Taliban during the Trump administration, and CNN previously reported the Biden administration kept him on board to, in part, demonstrate the Biden administration's fidelity to the Doha agreement that was signed by the US and the Taliban last year, which Khalilzad helped negotiate. That agreement, negotiated under the Trump administration and signed in February 2020, calls for the militant group to reduce violence and cut ties with terrorist organizations, among other demands. If the conditions of the deal were met, US forces would leave Afghanistan by May 2021, according to the agreement.Read MoreBut the Pentagon said last month that the Biden administration would not commit to a full drawdown of troops from Afghanistan by May because the Taliban have not honored the commitments they made in their deal with the United States."The Taliban have not met their commitments," Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said at a news briefing. "Without them meeting their commitments to renounce terrorism and to stop the violent attacks on the Afghan national security forces, and by dint of that the Afghan people, it's very hard to see a specific way forward for the negotiated settlement."The early foreign policy obstacle for the Biden administration had been previewed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who described Afghanistan as "a real challenge" in his confirmation hearing last month.
      "We want to end this so-called forever war. We want to bring our forces home. We want to retain some capacity to deal with any resurgence of terrorism, which is what brought us there in the first place," he said.Blinken also voiced a need to protect the gains made by women and civil society, telling the lawmakers, "I don't believe that any outcome that they might achieve -- the government of Afghanistan or the Taliban -- is sustainable without protecting the gains that had been made by women and girls in Afghanistan over the last 20 years when it comes to access to education, to health care, to employment."

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