Momentum is growing for Oklahoma City Public Schools and Metro Transit to partner in helping get high school students to class next year.
City schools are going to an academy system beginning next school year, where each high school in the district has a different specialty for students interested in a particular career path. John Marshall High School, for example, will have a finance academy, and plans are set for a credit union branch run by students to move into the school as part of the transformation.
Students living in John Marshall's district who would rather go to Centennial High School to attend the information technology academy there could do so, but the challenge is to get those students to the schools they want.
Up to 200 students could need help getting to class at a crosstown high school next year, said Scott Lane, the district's transportation director.
City buses fill gaps
An informal education task force made up of officials from the district and Oklahoma City has been meeting to find a solution to that problem and others, and it sharpened plans Wednesday to have Metro Transit buses help fill in the gaps.
Using the Metro Transit buses would allow the district to take three buses off the road, and Lane “conservatively” estimated that could save the district $100,000 next school year.
“The real result that's going to be important is getting these kids to the academies and letting them have a choice (on where to go to school),” city councilman Pat Ryan said. “Free choice of all the opportunities they can have is really awesome.”
The tentative plan is to have students get to their local high school on their own, and buses would then take care of the rest, said Rick Cain, director of the Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority. Students could either catch a Metro Transit bus that already goes by the school, or a city or school bus could take the students downtown to the Metro Transit hub, where they would ride another bus the rest of the way.
Free to students
The service would be free to the students. Some students could face rides of up to an hour and fifteen minutes to get to class by 7:15, but many students already have to catch a school bus around 6 a.m.
The task force intents to invite members of the Oklahoma City Council and school board to a joint meeting early in the summer, and it could be formally approved shortly thereafter. Councilman Pete White said having a concrete plan in place by then is key to turning talk into action while so many influential people are in the same room.
“I want to show progress,” White said. “I think that's how we have to do it.”
City schools Superintendent Karl Springer has been a vocal supporter of the transportation plan, and the efforts of the task force in general.