Duggan's school bus loop approved by ed board

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News
Detroit Public Schools Community District superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti, left, and Mayor Mike Duggan appeared together earlier this year after the mayor announced the bus loop during his annual speech.

Detroit — A school transit system pitched by Mayor Mike Duggan to create a united school bus loop for charter and traditional students in northwest Detroit was approved Tuesday by the Detroit Board of Education.

The approval clears the way for the "loop" plan to be implemented this fall for the 2018-19 school year for six schools in the Detroit Public Schools Community District and four charter schools in the area near McNichols and the Lodge Freeway.

Only students in grades K-8 will be served by the system, which is expected to cost $2 million. Participating charters, DPSCD and the Skillman Foundation are funding the system.

The Northwest Activities Center would also be a partner on the route to provide afterschool services. 

The bus loop being provided in Detroit during the next school year.

In his State of the City Speech in March, Duggan proposed the loop to stem the flow of Detroit school children leaving for to districts outside the city that provide bus transportation to and from school.

The DPSCD Board of Education approved its participation in the plan but committed only to the pilot for one year, rather than the five years as Duggan proposed.

The district will pay $1,000 per student registered in the loop program. Duggan had proposed that each school pay $25,000.

Iris Taylor, DPSCD board president, said the board agreed to the pilot for several reasons, including to determine whether it can boost enrollment in the district.

“In terms of innovation and collaboration, this is an opportunity to test both and see whether it will further us to accomplish our goals of increasing enrollment in the district and provide after-school programming,” Taylor said.

No cost estimate has been provided to the district — it will be billed monthly for students who use the loop system — but Taylor said drawing additional students and the state aid that comes with each child will offset the costs.

Duggan spokeswoman, Alexis Wiley, said on Wednesday that the district's vote was the final approval needed for the plan to move ahead. The plan was already approved by the four charter schools and the Community Education Commission.

The commission is a nonprofit created to address barriers that prevent families from accessing Detroit schools.

Wiley said the four charter schools signed up for "different" combinations of years and terms, but she did not disclose specifics.

"This is a major step in creating opportunity and ensuring that kids in our city have access to quality schools ... regardless of whether parents can afford transportation," Wiley said.

Duggan said an estimated 32,000 children go to schools in the suburbs while 51,000 attend the city’s public schools. The Skillman Foundation estimates 27,000 Detroit kids attend suburban schools.

The six Detroit public schools in the program are Vernor, Bagley, Schulze, John R. King, Coleman A. Young, and Foreign Language Immersion and Cultural Studies.

The four charter schools are Detroit Achievement, University YES Academy, MacDowell Preparatory and Cornerstone Lincoln-King.