LANSING, Mich. — The Lansing School District announced that it's doing away with school bus routes for its high school students. Instead, the district will buy them, and their families, Capital Area Transportation Authority bus passes or gas cards.
The district said one of the reasons is to help address the bus driver shortage, by only having school bus routes for kindergarten through eighth grade.
"During the pandemic, we found that our ridership naturally went down, and so we have capacity on our buses," CATA CEO Brad Funkhouser said. "The superintendent came over and said, 'How do we add to the service that our partner Dean Transportation is already providing to this community?'"
Another hope is that attendance at the high school will improve, because if a student misses their CATA bus, they can just wait for the next one.
Taking public transportation to school will also allow the high school students to have a later start time.
"Research after research after research says that high school should start later," Lansing School District Superintendent Ben Shuldiner said. "Currently, our high school starts at 7:25 a.m., but the school buses actually drop them off at 7 a.m. So, by starting school at 8 a.m., we're gaining an extra entire hour for our children."
Another reason for the change, the district said, is to increase participation in after-school activities.
"Because if you are so reliant on a school bus that has to pick you up at the end of school, and you can't get home any other way, you can't actually stay for sports. You can't stay for drama. You can't stay for dance," Shuldiner said.
It will also allow students free transportation to their after school or weekend jobs.
"The fact that they would have transportation free of charge through the school system will allow them to have jobs that will hopefully help them help their families," Shuldiner said.
Because it will be regular CATA service, one concern parents may have is for the safety of their children on public transportation.
To that, Funkhouser said, "Rest assured that we take the added responsibility with our partners to make sure that students are tracked. So, we will not have lost kids."
The exact cost for supplying high school students and their families with CATA passes or gas cards is not yet know, but Shuldiner said they expect it to not cost the district any more—maybe even less—than what they were already spending on their transportation.
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