Oklahoma City school transportation plan adds some students, omits others

Oklahoma City Public Schools developed a new transportation system to shuttle students across the district to attend new high school academies this year. But that shuttle hasn't been open to students who attend alternative or magnet schools.
BY CARRIE COPPERNOLL ccoppernoll@opubco.com Published: April 15, 2013

But Metro students have to find their own way to school.

One year, Kishore had a pair of siblings — a girl in the OutReach program and a boy in the Metro program. The sister rode a district school bus every day. The boy had to pay for a city bus.

When the Metro program began, it was designed for boys who had behavior problems, Kishore said.

But the program has evolved, she said. Girls can enroll now, too. And students are more likely to be here because they need help catching up — not because of bad behavior. Some need a nontraditional setting. Others blossom in the small classes. A few are dropouts who are giving school another shot.

“It's a huge thing that they've got the guts to walk back in the door and say, ‘I want to finish,'” she said.

Some ride with friends. A few walk or ride their bikes across town. Sometimes Kishore or other staff members pick up students and bring them in.

“If they're lucky enough to have support, a parent brings them,” Kishore said.

Some students, like Howard, come from the far reaches of the city. They leave before sunrise and don't make it to class until after first hour starts, Kishore said.

Costs

A single bus ride is $1.50 for age 18 and older or 75 cents for age 17 and younger, according to Metro Transit. A monthlong bus pass is $50 for age 18 and older and $25 for age 17 and younger.

Some students can't afford bus fare, Kishore said.

Kishore tries to scrape up money from here and there.

Kishore receives a $100 donation every month from a Newalla couple, and she uses that for transportation.

“We're getting a little help here and there from people,” she said.

But it's not enough.

“I certainly don't have enough funding to give a bus ticket to every child every day,” Kishore said.

Dqualis Johnson also takes the bus from Midwest City. He's a junior who used to go to Star Spencer, too. He attends Emerson because of his learning disabilities.

Johnson said he knows not all of his classmates can afford the bus ride, so he tries not to use the passes Kishore gives out unless he really needs it.

He said it's unfair he and his classmates don't get a bus ride while some other students do.

“People need the transportation,” he said.

Robinson, the Emerson senior, uses a monthly bus pass Kishore gave him. He's grateful to attend Emerson, he said. Star Spencer wasn't the right place for him.

“It's a good school,” he said. “There's just too many people.”

Robinson came to Emerson because he was behind.

With only a year of school left, he hadn't passed enough state-mandated end-of-instruction tests to graduate.

He needed to catch up in some classes, too. His new school has helped him do that.

He plays piano, organ, drums and the trumpet. He can play by ear. He still performs with the Star Spencer choir when he can. He'd like to go to Langston University and be in the band; he hopes to be a musician.

He spends more than an hour on the bus each way, but he still misses the first few minutes of his first- hour English class.

His teacher understands, though, and so do the rest of his teachers.

“They show they care about you,” Robinson said. “They talk to you every day. It's kind of like second parents.”


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