Officials are one step closer to breaking the transportation barrier for
A measure allowing students to ride StarMetro buses for free will circle back
to the City Commission next Wednesday. The proposal is then expected to go
before the School Board at the end of the month.
If approved, students attending a district high school could use StarMetro as
needed: to go to school at a later start time; participate in extracurricular
activities, or take dual-enrollment classes at nearby college campuses. They
could also ride the bus on weekends.
The initiative is the brainchild of Commissioner Scott Maddox and is an attempt
to level the playing field for all students. Maddox first announced the plan
during his aborted run for superintendent, but he still wants to see it begin
in time for the upcoming school year.
“The bottom line is we should not have two school systems — one for the haves,
one for the have-nots,” he said. “This is a step in the right direction to keep
that from happening.”
The School Board’s approval of a “floating” class period essentially created
two schedules. For 2016-17, students could either take first through sixth
period, most likely a 7:30 a.m. to 1:50 p.m. school day, in which busing would
be provided; or second through seventh period, running from 8:30 a.m. to 2:50
p.m., without a transportation option.
In its first year, the pilot program between LCS and StarMetro would allow
students with their school ID to ride at a fixed cost — tentatively set at 60
cents per trip — to the district. LCS would pay the city a lump sum based on
how many students ride the bus.
StarMetro would also track ridership. Based on that information, city staffers
would develop a multiyear agreement with the district.
Existing StarMetro routes have stops at all traditional district high schools,
except Chiles. Adding a route nearby would cost $60,000 annually. The pilot
program will most likely not include the extension because a need is not
expected in the area, Maddox said.
StarMetro staff met with district officials on June 27. According to city
documents, LCS “expressed support” for starting the program. District officials
were unavailable for comment Thursday.
Other counties, such as Polk and Hillsborough, already have similar successful
transit agreements. In 2015, Polk County students rode the buses 49,000 times.