Newark high school students will receive a monthly bus pass instead of a daily pass starting in January 2023 as part of a trial program with NJ Transit, district officials said during a November board of education meeting.
The new pilot program, which runs from January to the end of June, will provide all high school students with a monthly bus pass for use outside of school and for travel to and from school. The district currently provides single-use bus tickets for trips to and from school for students who live within a certain distance from campus.
“I’m very excited about this bus ticket,” said board president Dawn Hayes during last week’s council meeting. “I know as a mom of two high schoolers that it’s going to come in handy.”
Under By New Jersey law, the district is required to provide transportation to and from school for elementary school students who live more than 2 miles from their public school and for high school students who live more than 2.5 miles from their school. Like other cities, Newark relies on public transportation systems like NJ Transit to get students to school.
The new initiative will begin on January 3, 2023 for eligible high school students. They will receive a physical or electronic monthly bus pass based on the zone in which they currently travel to and from school, board members said. District management will monitor the trial run and evaluate the program at the end of June. The exact cost of the new program and the district’s savings are still unknown.
During a meeting last Tuesday, school board members noted the upcoming launch of the program, which is the result of years of negotiations between Newark Public Schools and NJ Transit to find an alternative to the current single ticket system. Details about program was first announced in February 2020 when district officials said they would roll out a monthly bus pass initiative to students at six schools. At the time, bus passes did not cover evening or weekend trips, but the program was suspended due to the pandemic.
“I don’t know if people are aware of the magnitude of bus fares,” board member Flohisha Johnson-Hill said during a meeting last week. “It’s really great that the kids will be able to use it on the weekend for travel, for work or for different activities after school.”
County spokeswoman Nancy Dearing did not respond to a request for comment about the program.
More than 14,000 Newark students were eligible for bus passes in October, and another 4,700 students were transported by school bus. committee reports. Before the new program, eligible students received monthly single-use bus tickets from the school, but that put a burden on students who were responsible for keeping track of their tickets. Students with disabilities are provided transportation by school buses regardless of their home address, in accordance with office of special education.
“I’m very excited about it,” board member A’Dorian Murray-Thomas said at the meeting.
In August, Newark Superintendent Roger Leon and the Board of Education held just over $7 million in contract with 20 transport companies to serve 126 routes to schools. During the November board meeting approved a contract worth more than $6 million with 22 transport companies to serve 101 routes with a route modification allowance of 10% for the academic year 2023-24.
Jessie Gomez is a Chalkbeat Newark reporter covering public education in the city. Contact Jesse at email@example.com.