INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis Public Schools has approved the latest transportation plan in a 6 to 1 vote Thursday night.
The IPS Board of School Commissioners approved a recommendation to move some high school students to IndyGo as their primary mode of transportation to and from school. The vote is part of a larger effort to shift student transportation for the 2021–22 school year.
“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,” Aleesia Johnson, IPS superintendent said. “We are committed to the continued engagement and support of our families to ensure a transition that is smooth as we’re able to make it at the start of the next school year.”
“This decision didn’t happen overnight. There has been a tremendous amount of research, conversation and many options generated,” Evan Hawkins, Board president said. “I appreciate the thought that’s gone into scaling the IndyGo partnership. While change isn’t always easy, this will be good for the district and our students.”
Changes to busing and walking to school are part of a cost-savings plan to keep an $18 million budget shortfall from impacting academic instruction for Indianapolis Public Schools. Proposed enforcement of walk zones and the use of IndyGo to transport a couple hundred high school students are expected to now save the district up to $7 million when the district adds the re-scheduling of the new bus routes in the fall.
That means approximately 4,173 students who live within their neighborhood schools will be expected to walk as the district enforces its walk zone policy.
Elementary students who live within less than a mile from their school are expected to walk, as are middle school students who live within 1.25 miles and high school students who live within 1.5 miles from their school.
Commissioner Venita Moore suggested commissioners take an IndyGo bus from their homes to the closest school to see what students will experience come the upcoming school year.
Commissioner Taria Slack, who voted against the plan, asked that the school district continue to engage with parents to increase transparency. She said the budget deficit is a lot but it’s hard to compare IPS to school districts like Chicago and Denver. She added that infrastructure is an issue, specifically lighting. And, she said she can’t deny that development in the center of Indianapolis is different compared to the west and east sides of the city, in terms of lighting and access to bus stops.
Commissioner Diane Arnold said she feels concerned about walk zones will be addressed as they are enforced, with regards to safety and crossing guards. She explained that change is hard, but it will encourage neighborhoods to spend more time outside keeping an eye on children walking to and from school.
Commissioner Evan Hawkins added the takeaway with this decision are how the months of May, June, July and August will be critical when it comes to communicating the plan with IPS families to make sure they understand how the transportation process is changing. He said he would like to see a running list of infrastructures, lights, sidewalks, etc. to advocate for improvements and work with the Department of Public Works.
Click HERE for a full overview of the plan.
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