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 IndyGo. 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 east side. 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-County Council votes yes on funding for the mass transit plan. If approved, the plan’s key components will allow our bus riders to both get to school on time and engage in after-school activities, all while ensuring their safety.
First, having certain buses that come in 10-minute intervals will result in more pickup times. This will 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 their falling behind academically.
An improved transportation system will also allow our students to take advantage of more after-school activities which, as studies have shown, results in many benefits such as improved academic performance, better school attendance and higher academic aspirations. At Tindley, after-school activities don’t start until 4:15 p.m., 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.
Passing the new mass transit plan will also go a long way toward keeping our students safe and healthy. With increased pickup times, students will have the opportunity to ride the buses later in the day, knowing 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.
Finally, approval of increased funding for 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 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 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.•
Watson is a special education teacher at Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School. McGuire is the principal at Tindley Preparatory Academy. Both are Teach Plus Teaching Policy fellows.