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New Committee to Advise on METRO Plan for High School Students

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New Committee to Advise on METRO Plan for High School Students
Posted on 04/27/2015

A METRO Advisory Committee has been formed to provide feedback and suggestions and facilitate community outreach regarding the new plan to have Greater Portland METRO buses transport Portland Public Schools’ high school students to and from school and also to and from extracurricular activities, starting this fall.

The new committee includes representatives from the following stakeholder groups: students, parents, the Portland Board of Public Education, the school district and the METRO transit district. The committee will hold its first meeting on Tuesday, April 28 from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Lincoln Middle School. Its second meeting is planned for Tuesday, May 5, at 5 p.m. in room 209 at City Hall.

“As we implement this new transportation plan, the METRO Advisory Committee will serve as a sounding board to ensure that all issues around such factors as safety and logistics are fully addressed and communicated to the public,” said Portland Public Schools Superintendent Emmanuel Caulk. “This partnership with METRO is a very positive step for the Portland Public Schools. It will greatly increase our bus capacity and it also carries benefits for our students, such as providing Portland Public Schools’ high school students with free transit passes to use METRO during the academic year at such times as the evenings or weekends. We want to ensure a smooth transition to this busing plan and the new advisory committee will aid in making that happen.”

The new committee also will take a multimodal look at the various alternative ways students get to school, such as by walking and bicycling, to ensure that students can access those means of transportation easily and safely as well.

The plan to have METRO, not district schools buses, transport high school students was developed as a part of bell schedule changes that are needed to accommodate 20 more minutes of student learning time that will be added to each school day, beginning this fall. The additional instructional time, which will be added to all schools districtwide, is part of a contract agreement between the school board and the teachers’ union.

Students at Deering, Portland and Casco Bay high schools will continue to start school at 8 a.m., as they do now, but their school day will now finish at 2:30 p.m. instead of 2:10 p.m. Times for the Portland Arts and Technology High School (PATHS) will remain the same as they are now, running from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

The new transportation agreement with METRO will give the Portland Public Schools, the state’s largest school district with approximately 7,000 students, more flexibility when it comes to transportation. Most high school students will take METRO buses, although the district’s school buses will continue to transport special education high school students.

The school board on March 3 authorized the superintendent to develop a cost-sharing agreement with that bus service. The new METRO Advisory Committee has been formed as the result of that partnership.

District school buses will continue to transport the district’s students in middle and elementary school. The board will be holding a public hearing on proposed bell schedule changes for the elementary and middle schools on April 28, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Lincoln Middle School. A vote is expected on the bell schedules for those schools at the board’s May 5 business meeting, to begin at 7 p.m. at City Hall