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9/9/2016 | TACOMA, Washington
Breaking down barriers to student achievement includes helping students
with transportation issues get to school and return home again, safely
and on time. Tacoma Public Schools and Pierce Transit begin a pilot
program this fall to offer free bus passes to students at Lincoln and
Foss high schools, with the possibility of expanding the program in the
future to more schools.Students aren’t required to take the
passes; the program aims to get passes specifically to students who
don’t have access to school bus service, participate in afterschool
programs or have other difficulties getting to school and home
consistently.The district expects the expansion to improve
attendance and drive up students’ opportunities to participate in more
after school activities—both of which lead to higher graduation rates,
research shows.Students at the district’s School of the Arts,
Science and Math Institute, and Industrial Design Engineering and Art
schools live all over the district and receive bus passes under a
contract with Pierce Transit that took effect in 2010. The Willie
Stewart Academy, Oakland High School and Remann Hall get passes under
the same contract, which provides the district 1,525 passes at an annual
cost of $138.24 per student, a yearly total of $224,105. The pilot
program adds another 1,000 passes, but the cost per pass drops to
$112.71, bringing the grand total up to $298,604.In effect the
district will buy nearly twice as many passes but the overall cost of
the program will increase by about 30 percent. And the more passes
bought, the lower the price per pass will go.The decision to
continue and expand or cancel the program will hinge mostly on interest,
according to transportation director Sue Race. “Does it open
opportunities for kids to go to another school of their choice, or
attend a football game after school?” Race said. “We’ll have a database
that will tell us why the student wanted the card—why do they want
Pierce Transit instead of a yellow bus? If nobody uses it or we just
have 10 kids that sign up, we know the program’s not going to work. Does
it give kids the opportunity to go to a school they always wanted to go
to? That’s going to be part of our evaluation.”District
officials chose Lincoln and Foss partially to encourage access to the
special programs at each school, said Lincoln Principal Pat Erwin.
Lincoln has an extended-day format four days per week, and Foss offers
the academically challenging International Baccalaureate program.“Foss
was selected also because of our high free and reduced lunch rate, as
well as not having a feeder middle school,” said Foss principal Lysandra
Ness. “(We) have students traveling to Foss from all over the district.
We’re always being asked about transportation options for students to
attend Foss. Some families are more comfortable with public
transportation than others.”Foss students can pick up
applications for the passes in their school attendance office, whereas
at Lincoln the main office has the applications. Applications require a
signature by a parent or guardian. The passes bear the Tacoma Public
Schools logo and replacing a lost or stolen card will cost $10.
Tacoma Public Schools is the only district designated an Innovation Zone by Washington State. A leader in implementing innovative schools and programs to meet the diverse needs of every student, every day, TPS serves approximately 30,000 students from preschool to grade 12 and at nearly 5000 employees is one of the largest employers in Tacoma. Learn more...
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