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Sunday, May 16, 2021

IPS approves plan to move 600 students to IndyGo for transportation services

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Indianapolis Public Schools will transition about 600 high school students from yellow bus service to IndyGo starting next school year, another step in the partnership between the state’s largest school district and public transportation provider.

The school board approved the plan with a 6-1 vote April 29.

Moving some students to IndyGo — along with enforcing walking zones and consolidating bus routes — will save the district an estimated $5 million. IPS needs to find a total of about $18 million in cuts because of lower enrollment.

A Shortridge High School senior spoke in favor of the move at the meeting. He said he participated in the district’s pilot with IndyGo and said it helps students learn about responsibility and independence.

“It’s allowed me a lot more flexibility,” he said. “If is miss the bus, I can catch the next bus. I’m not relying on only one like the school bus.”

The board took in-person public comment for the first time since the pandemic started.

An IPS parent voiced one of the most common concerns about the transition: safety. She said it’s common to see adults congregate and fight or do drugs at bus stops near her home.

Board member Taria Slack, the lone no vote, said she also had concerns about safety, as well as inequity when it comes to infrastructure such as sidewalks to get to a bus.

Board member Venita Moore voted yes but recommended commissioners take an IndyGo bus to a school to understand what they’re asking students to do.

The assistant principal at Shortridge, Jacob Practor, submitted written comment to the board and said the school asked families as part of the registration process if they feel comfortable having their child use IndyGo. Of the 613 responses, 235 said yes, and 189 said no, Practor wrote. (It wasn’t clear what the remaining responses were.)

According to the district, high school students rode an IndyGo bus 150,000 times over the last three years as part of a pilot program without incident.

“With the Board’s approval of today’s transportation recommendations, we know our work does not end, it’s just moving into the next phase,” IPS Superintendent Aleesia Johnson said in a statement. “We are committed to the continued engagement and support of our families to ensure a transition that is as smooth as we’re able to make it at the start of the next school year.”

IPS chose the roughly 600 students to transition to IndyGo based on three criteria.

· Total travel time from home to school would be less than 50 minutes, which is a half hour shorter than district guidelines for yellow buses.

· Students would have to walk less than 0.7 miles total, including from home to the bus and from the bus to school.

· Students would need to be able to get to school without transferring buses.

The average travel time for those students will be about 24 minutes, according to the district, and almost 90% of students will have a shorter travel time with IndyGo than they would on a yellow bus.

Any IPS high school student can opt in to making IndyGo their transportation provider, meaning they would give up yellow bus service.

The district’s transportation plan also includes enforcing walking zones, a move the board did not need to approve because it was already district policy.

The district defines walking zones as the following:

· Elementary school students who live within 1 mile of school.

· Middle school students who live within 1.25 miles of school.

· High school students who live within 1.5 miles of school.

The district hadn’t enforced walking zones for years in part because of a shortage of crossing guards, but IPS will have more to accommodate walkers.

Contact staff writer Tyler Fenwick at 317-762-7853. Follow him on Twitter @Ty_Fenwick.

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