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March 27, 2014  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Boston district votes to expand transit bus pass program

By Kelly Aguinaldo


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BOSTON — Boston Public Schools’ (BPS) school committee has approved Interim Superintendent John McDonough’s budget recommendation for the 2015 fiscal year, which included a proposal to expand the district’s mass transit bus pass program to more seventh- and eighth-grade students and eliminate yellow bus service for these students.

As SBF previously reported, the school system faced a budget challenge of more than $100 million, and in an effort to save $11 million, officials proposed several transportation-related changes. One of those changes was to expand the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) pass program to an additional 4,586 students in the next school year.

Yellow bus door-to-door service would continue for all students who receive this as part of a special-education plan.

In a memorandum from McDonough to the Boston School Committee that outlined the proposed transportation changes, he wrote, “Students will gain a valuable asset in their monthly MBTA passes. In addition, students will learn to navigate the city’s transportation system, giving them the chance to develop greater maturity and independence and leaving students better prepared for the transition to ninth grade.

"More widespread use of MBTA passes is also likely to reduce discipline issues on yellow buses. In addition, students will be able to choose when they arrive at school in the morning, potentially giving them more time to eat breakfast.”

McDonough also addressed student safety concerns associated with the proposed transportation changes in the memorandum. He said that district officials plan to work closely with community agencies, the Office of Neighborhood Services, the MBTA and other stakeholders to mitigate the concerns.

“For example, we will look at strategies like better coordination of security officers to ensure coverage at busy hubs and the greater involvement of school staff and volunteers through the StopWatch program,” he wrote. “We may also provide shuttles for students at less accessible schools.”
 
An announcement on the school system’s website indicated that the Boston School Committee approved McDonough’s recommended budget by a six to zero vote on Wednesday. Mayor Martin Walsh will now include the budget within the city’s overall proposed 2015 fiscal year budget, which will be considered by the Boston City Council.

Some members of the community, including parents, students and the Boston City Council, are not in favor of the transportation proposal and the outcome of the vote, according to a story on boston.com.

The news outlet reports that the Boston City Council passed a resolution hours before the vote that urged the Boston School Committee to delay the vote, believing that the MBTA pass expansion proposal requires more evaluation, particularly on cost savings and effects on student safety.   

For more information about the 2015 fiscal year budget development at BPS, including a Q&A about the proposed transportation changes, click here.


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