Detroit launches new bus loop to boost enrollment at charters, city public schools

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click to enlarge Detroit launches new bus loop to boost enrollment at charters, city public schools

Detroit city and school officials have formally launched a controversial bus loop pilot program intended to help boost enrollment at both charter schools and schools in the Detroit Public Schools Community District.

The one-year pilot program will circulate students between 10 schools and after-school programming in northwest Detroit. The idea is that the free aftercare and transport offering — which will cost participating DPSCD schools $1,000 per pupil or $25,000 per school  will help schools in Detroit bring back some of the 32,000 kids who Duggan says leave the city each day to attend schools elsewhere.

Some have criticized the plan for its inclusion of charter schools, with which the Detroit Public Schools Community District competes for students. The proliferation of charter schools helped lead to the undoing of DPSCD's predecessor district, Detroit Public Schools.

DPSCD board member LaMar Lemmons and his wife, Georgia Lemmons, were the only members to vote "no" on the bus loop. At the late May board meeting where the proposal was ultimately approved, Lemmons was quoted by the Free Press as saying the district is working with the people and entities "that worked to undermine and destroy this district."

In a phone call Monday, Lemmons said he and his wife were also against the plan because they believe it can't be replicated citywide at the cost of $1,000 per student, and that by implementing the system in only the better-off neighborhoods that make up northwest Detroit, "we’re creating a classist support district."

Others criticized the plan as a costly attempt by Duggan to score political points.

"We need the money for other purposes," activist Helen Moore reportedly told the board at the time.

Detroit Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, meanwhile, has reportedly argued the plan doesn't aid charter schools at the expense of the district because each school will pay for how many students utilize the program. Initially, the Duggan administration had proposed that each school pay a flat rate of $25,000 to participate. There are six DPSCD schools on the route and four charter schools.

The program would have kids hop on the bus at the participating school closest to their home, then take the bus to their school. After school, they could take the bus back to the school near their home or to the Northwest Activities Center for after-school programming.

The DPSCD schools to participate in the program are Vernor Elementary, Bagley Elementary, Schulze Elementary-Middle, Coleman A. Young Elementary, Foreign Language Immersion and Cultural Studies, and John R. King Academic & Performing Arts Academy. The charters involved are Detroit Achievement Academy, Lincoln-King Academy, University YES Academy, and MacDowell Preparatory Academy.

Vitti was quoted by the Freep as saying the DPSCD schools were chosen due to their strong leaders and strong programs, "which positions us to compete" for students.

Parents can enroll their kids in the program here.

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