CINCINNATI — Less than three weeks before classes begin, Cincinnati Public Schools finalized their student bus schedule for the coming year.
what you need to know
- Cincinnati Public Schools have finalized their student bus plan for the coming year
- The biggest change is that CPS plans to use yellow buses to transport most bus-eligible seventh and eighth graders to school
- Seventh and eighth graders can use the subway to get home from extracurricular activities
- The plan comes a year after the end of the Metro’s longstanding school-centric routes
On Monday, the CPS Board of Education approved the transportation contract for the 2022-2023 school year with the Southwest Ohio Regional Transportation Authority. SORTA operates the Hamilton County Metro bus system.
The Board of Directors unanimously approved the one-year contract.
The biggest change from last year’s deal is that CPS plans to use private yellow buses to transport eligible seventh and eighth graders to school. Students participating in extracurricular programs, such as sports or drama, can get a pass to go home on the Metro bus.
The plan calls for CPS students in grades 9 through 12 to continue to ride Metro buses to and from school without having to pay out of pocket. They can also use the bus when they are involved in school-related extracurricular activities. That’s a slight change from last year, where they could also use the subway to get to jobs, according to SORTA.
Pupils from kindergarten to sixth grade also ride yellow buses.
The first day of school for CPS students is Thursday 18th August. CPS hosted a virtual parent information session on Sunday, August 14 at 4 p.m
“Transportation is a key component of ensuring our students get to school safely and on time,” said new CPS Superintendent Iranetta Wright. “I am very grateful that the CPS and Metro teams have come together to ensure our students have the most direct transportation to and from school this year.”
Under the new plan, eligible students who ride the metro will have at most one transfer en route to or from school, according to a joint statement from CPS and SORTA.
Cincinnati Public Schools serves approximately 36,000 students at 65 schools in a 91 square mile district.
One of those students is Farrah Jacquez’s eldest son, Cian, 12. He is preparing to start as a seventh year student with Clark Montessori in Hyde Park in a few weeks.
Jacquez admitted to being nervous about taking a subway bus alone. In the past she took Cian and his younger brother Elias to North Avondale Montessori where they both went to school. It’s near where she lives.
“We weren’t sure how to get Cian to Hyde Park while Elias had to be Montessori in North Avondale,” she said. “When they announced that seventh graders would be getting yellow bus service, it felt like a huge problem had been solved.”
The road to this new deal wasn’t always easy
This year, SORTA will receive $315 for each eligible CPS student who rides a subway bus to school, according to Brandy Jones, spokesman for SORTA. There is an additional fee per pass to cover the cost of the after-school passes. In a statement, SORTA said it collapses to $38.50 per quarter for each pass.
“We are proud of our long history of serving students and families and look forward to our continued partnership with Cincinnati Public Schools in the coming school year,” said Darryl Haley, Metro CEO and general manager. “As always, we are committed to providing a safe, timely and reliable service that connects students to classes across the city.”
News of the updated contract comes just over a year later SORTA eliminated XTRA Service, a long-standing program that provided direct connections to public and private high schools across the city.
The changes had to happen, Jones said last summer, partly because of driver shortages.
Xtra routes were for seventh through twelfth graders. About 6,000 students used these routes every day, the school district said last year.
But a few thousand other students, like those at the downtown School of Creative and Performing Arts, were already using standard subway routes to get to school, Jones said.
SORTA described the decision to end the Xtra program as “mutual” and part of a lengthy annual service review with the school district’s former transportation coordinator. The CPS leadership claimed to be unaware of the change.
At the time, former interim CPS superintendent Tianay Amat expressed concerns about the changes, which ranged from overcrowding to security to ease of use by students, some of whom were not even teenagers.
She asked Haley to reconsider reintroducing the Xtra tracks before school starts. That didn’t happen though CPS and SORTA came together to review the plan and make minor changes.
The Metro added route rerouting and more frequent stops at schools over the past year to keep the system “reliable” for students and families, SORTA said in a statement. They also offered longer hours during the school week and new Saturday hours to make it easier for students to find extracurricular or extracurricular jobs.
The window for the out-of-school or out-of-school passes is 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Jones said.
Overall, Mike Moroski, a member of the CPS Education Committee, called the new plan a “huge improvement” over the previous year. He went so far as to call them “as good if not better than the Xtra” routes.
Data from CPS shows that 58% of CPS students who will rely on metro service this year will have to change buses on their way to school. The rest of the students will not have transfers, Moroski said.
As of Tuesday afternoon, he had heard no complaints from parents or students.
“All students will be on the bus less than an hour,” he added. “We are grateful for our partnership with Metro and excited to be able to provide great services early in the school.”
Preparation for the school year
SORTA “does not anticipate any problems or logistical challenges,” Jones said. However, she pointed out that the transit agency plans to continue working with the CPS administration to resolve any issues or concerns.
Metro plans to have representatives at upcoming school orientations and other CPS events, like the Washington Park Family Cookout, to support families who may need help planning travel or have questions.
Students and their families receive “route postcards” in the mail via CPS from the school district’s Transportation Department prior to the start of the school year. The cards have specific bus information, but they also serve as a student bus pass that students use on the first day of class.
CPS plans to distribute metro passes and cards to students once students come to school.
Students who do not receive a card by August 15 may call CPS’ transportation hotline at 513-363-RIDE (7433). Dispatchers can also answer more general questions. It is open Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m
The quarter added a Frequently Asked Questions page to its website also.
CPS advised students and their families to do their homework on route information and travel planning as well. Current route information can be found at Metro’s school transportation website. Users should enter August 18 or later into the search tool to ensure the information reflects routes for the school year.