By ShaDe’ Watson and David McGuire
Imagine you’re a student taking the city bus to school every day. You wake up at 5:30 a.m. to catch three buses and you still end up being late to school. The buses are often late, the weather and traffic get in the way, and you often don’t feel safe this early in the morning or when you’re coming back from school late at night. Your family doesn’t have enough money to purchase a car, so you’re left to rely on the IndyGo as your primary means of transportation. As a high school student, how would you effectively navigate this system?
This is the reality for some of our students in the Tindley Schools network, a chain of high-performing charter schools on the eastside of Indianapolis. We do not have a school busing system, so our families have two options for transportation: dropping their children off every morning or putting them on the city bus to school, regardless of weather, reliability, or safety.
Having good, reliable transportation is paramount to ensuring that our students can take full advantage of their academic opportunities. Hence, it is critical that the city council votes yes on the Mass Transit plan. If approved, the plan’s key components would allow our bus riders to both get to school on time and engage in the after-school activities, all while ensuring their safety.
First, allowing certain busses to ride in 10-minute intervals would result in more pick-up times. This would allow our students, some of whom now travel for more than two hours on several buses, to get to school on time. Being consistently late to school puts students at a disadvantage and eventually leads to them falling behind academically. A more efficient transportation system would ensure that our students are at the school before the bell and are fully prepared for their academic day.
An improved transportation system would also allow our students to take advantage of more after-school activities which, as studies have shown, result in many benefits such as improved academic performance, better school attendance, and higher academic aspirations. At Tindley, school activities don’t start until after 4:15 pm, by which time many of our city bus riders have to leave to catch their first bus of many in order to simply make it home. Having more buses run more frequently will allow these students to participate in extracurricular activities while still being able to catch a bus home at a decent time.
Passing the new Mass Transit plan would also go a long way towards keeping our students safe and healthy. With increased pick up times, students will have the opportunity to ride the buses later in the day, both during daylight and knowing that they won’t have extended wait times in the dark. Moreover, with buses coming more frequently, our students will have less waiting time at the bus stop during the colder months. This will not only keep our students healthier but alleviate the need for parents to stay home with their children during times of sickness.
Lastly, the approval of the Mass Transit plan will make it easier for families to choose better-performing schools for their children to attend. Families often send their children to schools where there is a bus available. A more effective transportation system will allow families to explore schools outside of their neighborhood.
The new Mass Transit plan is bound to have countless positive ramifications on our students’ academic, social, and emotional trajectory. The Tindley scholars and all other students who take public transit to school need the Indianapolis City-County Council to approve it. Teachers, school administrators, students, families, and businesses will all greatly benefit from a transit system that is more efficient, reliable, and safe.
ShaDe’ Watson is a special education teacher at Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School. David McGuire is the school principal at Tindley Preparatory Academy. Both are Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellows.