Those storied yellow buses may soon go the way of the dodo for some or all of Southwest Minneapolis' high school students. Under a plan district officials are peddling to parents, the district would work out a deal with Metro Transit to provide those green, 24-hour transit passes to many students who currently ride the bus, and possibly even to students who live too close to their school to be eligible for a bus ride.
You'd think Minneapolis Public Schools would be doing this to save money, but district officials say that the program will likely be a wash, or incur between $1.9 and $2.5 million in costs for the district. Instead Meredith Fox, the official in charge of the proposal, said the idea came about after a pilot involving about 1,000 kids around the district proved wildly successful among the participants.
The cards, said Fox, gave the students more flexibility to attend after-school activities, extended school programs, more flexible schedules during the day, and the ability to get to and from after-school jobs.
Parents at Thursday night's Area C Parent Advisory Council meeting, though, weren't so eager. Several raised concerns about student safety, long ride times, and students needing to make multiple transfers between buses. Others worried about students currently ineligible for bus rides, pointing out that they would be left by the roadside when it comes to getting to after-school jobs that many of the district's low-income families need.
Fox said the district was still negotiating details of the proposal with MetroTransit, but said the agency was open to changing bus routes and adding new ones if it meant they would get a big increase in riders. She added that under the current pilot, MetroTransit drivers and police were being trained by district staff on how best to deal with high schoolers. So far, she said, there have been few incidents or problems.
Nothing is final, district officials assured parents last night, and they're still taking parent comment on the issue.