Let the children ride.
The idea of giving school kids more options for riding city buses found favor with officials meeting Tuesday night to discuss city-school district cooperation.
The Oklahoma City Council, the Oklahoma City School Board and the MAPS for Kids Trust met at the Downtown Library to review progress of the city's Joint Education Task Force.
A similar meeting a year ago was thought to have been the first formal meeting between a municipal council and school board in Oklahoma history.
The role of the task force has been to focus on ways the city and schools can combine resources to improve student achievement.
Tuesday night, the panels together reviewed the results of their partnerships, including tutoring programs and enhanced public relations efforts.
After more than two years of work, they agreed it was time to update goals.
“We need to plow some new ground,” said Ward 4 City Councilman Pete White, relaying a recommendation from Ward 8 Councilman Pat Ryan, who was unable to attend.
Ideas tossed out included:
• Reducing the rate at which schoolchildren move from school to school. School board member Ruth Veales said too many families lack fundamental housing security in the city. “Families need stability,” she said.
• Reducing truancy rates.
• Making schools neighborhood hubs, with services offered on a routine and dependable basis by area nonprofit groups. School board member Bob Hammack said classrooms are empty too many hours of the day. “They shouldn't sit dormant,” he said.
The officials agreed Metro Transit and school bus services — in White's words, two “inefficient” public transit systems — could find efficiencies to better serve the public and students.
“I think there's more synergy in the bus systems than anything we've discussed so far,” White said.
Administrator Rick Cain said Metro Transit cannot operate as a school bus system, but can find creative ways to help get children to and from school, safely.
Officials agreed to have city and school district staffs by early December come up with ideas, perhaps including free bus passes, to enhance transit services to neighborhood schools.
Many schoolchildren already ride Metro Transit buses, Cain said.
“We carry elementary through high school every day,” he said.