The Chicago Public Schools expect to spend $12 million to $15 million this school year to operate its bus program for students who need the service. But CPS will not be able to provide bus service to students at five new magnet schools this year because a
The Chicago Public Schools expect to spend $12 million to $15 million this school year to operate its bus program for students who need the service. But CPS will not be able to provide bus service to students at five new magnet schools this year because additional state funding was not secured, said Malon Edwards, a CPS spokesman.
Now parents at the magnet schools, created with a $10.1 million federal grant, must seek alternative ways to get their children to and from school.
Among the new magnet schools are Joshua D. Kershaw Magnet School, 6450 S. Lowe, where classes started Aug. 4.
The four other new schools are: Sir Miles Davis Magnet School, 6730 S. Paulina; Walt Disney Magnet II, 3815 N. Kedvale Ave.; Oscar Mayer Magnet School, 2250 N. Clifton Ave.; and LaSalle II Magnet School, 1148 N. Honore St., which all start Sept. 2.
“I had no idea that bus service would not be offered at Kershaw. No one informed me about the state budget cuts,” said Michelle Williams, 37, whose daughter is a second grader at Kershaw. “It wasn’t until the first day of school when I waited 45 minutes outside with my daughter for the bus when I realized something was wrong.”
Williams said she took public transportation that day to get her daughter to school but cannot keep doing it.
“I work from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. so you tell me, how will I be able to take my child to school and pick her up?” she said. “Luckily my brother was on vacation this past week so he was able to take her and pick her up for me, but when he goes back, to work I don’t know what I will do.”
Williams did not rule out transferring her daughter to a school that does offer school bus service. Although Kershaw parents began registering their children in March, Edwards said letters informing parents about the bus situation were not mailed until around July 30, five days before school started.
“We realize there was a small window of notification that took place, and as a result not all parents were informed,” Edwards said. “But that’s why the principal and assistant principal at Kershaw followed up by calling parents.”
Edwards could not confirm whether or not parents were reached by phone.
“Based on my conversations with (some parents), transportation was a big concern of theirs,” said Patricia Johnson, principal at Kershaw. “This would have been the first year bus service was provided at Kershaw because previously we were a neighborhood school.”
According to Johnson, neighborhood schools are not eligible for CPS bus service because students supposedly live within walking distance. Still, Williams is not the only frustrated parent at Kershaw.
Monica Myles, 34, has two children at Kershaw and is not at all pleased with news of the bus service.
“That’s like not offering reduced or free lunches for needy students and you tell the parents you will reimburse them later for a portion of the money they spent on lunch.”
For its part, CPS is offering parents fare cards to utilize Chicago Transit Authority. And for those parents who drive their kids to school, they would be reimbursed 58 cents per mile.
To qualify for gas mileage from CPS, parents must live between one-and-a-half and six miles from the school. If they live a shorter distance, they would not be eligible for reimbursement, under CPS guidelines. But even with reimbursement some parents are still not satisfied.
“There was a total breakdown of communication here between the school and parents,” said Tina Allen, 43, a Kershaw parent. “And now that it’s clear that no bus service will be offered this year, we, as parents, must now decide whether to keep our children at Kershaw or transfer them to another magnet school that does offer bus service.”
Last school year CPS budgeted $7 million for bus service but ended up spending $12 million, in part, because of rising fuel prices, Edwards said.
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