Detroit transit loop expands list of schools, programs

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News
The Northwest Detroit GOAL Line Green Route school bus pulls up at University Yes Academy in Detroit.  The loop picks up participating children at the school closest to their home and transports them to the school of their choice on the line.

Detroit —  A northwest Detroit bus loop created to bring children back to Detroit schools is expanding, adding more schools to its route and increasing after-school enrichment programs.

City officials announced Thursday that the GOAL Line, a school transit program championed by Mayor Mike Duggan in 2018 and run by the Community Education Commission, is adding four schools starting this fall for its second year of operation.

The loop serves 10 public schools in northwest Detroit. The six Detroit public schools in the program are: Vernor, Bagley, Schulze, John R. King, Coleman A. Young and FLICS The four charter schools are: Detroit Achievement, University YES Academy, MacDowell Preparatory and Cornerstone Lincoln-King.

The loop picks up participating children at the school closest to their homes and transports them to the school of their choice on the line. It provided 22,000 rides last school year, said Stephanie Young, executive director of the Community Education Commission.

Pasteur Elementary and Palmer Park Preparatory Academy, both in the Detroit Public Schools Community District, and two charter schools, Cornerstone Adams-Young Academy and Rutherford Winans Academy, are being added to the route, city officials said.

The bus line is a partnership between DPSCD, charter school operators, teachers, parents and city leaders to improve education opportunities for Detroit students.

For year two, the system is expanding its after-school program capacity from 200 to 300 students and adding partners like Mosaic Youth Theater and the College for Creative Studies, city officials said.

Young said the program exceeded its goal of serving 200 students last school year, serving 223 as of May. 

"It was an amazing year. When you look at these numbers, we wanted 200 kids and that is just what we had," she said.

The five-year pilot has two ways for a school to pay: $1,000 per student registered in the loop program or a flat fee of $25,000 a year. DPSCD schools pay $1,000 per student.

The system cost $1.1 million to operate in its first year, Young said, with  schools paying $150,000 for rides and philanthropy paying the rest.

As for whether the system is bringing Detroit children back to Detroit schools, Young said it's not clear.

In January, a four-month study of the bus loop showed the system provided 13,500 rides but little evidence that families were returning to the city's schools. A second study was not performed.

"That still remains to be seen. We know that DPSCD has seen an increase in students from outside the district. We are still trying to get that information from charters," Young said.

What the commission did learn, she said, is that parents were drawn to the after-school programs for their children.

"We thought transportation was the answer. It turns our after-school is the greatest component." she said.

District spokeswoman Chrystal Wilson said the district gained 33 students attributed to the GOAL Line.

"However feedback received from parents, 60 percent indicated one of the primary reasons for participation in the GOAL Line is the free after-school care and programming," she said. 

Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of DPSCD, said the attention and resources provided through the CEC bus loop initiative energized parents and assisted in efforts to increase enrollment.

"But more importantly (the initiative) expanded much needed after-school programming for students," Vitti said. "We look forward to working through future partnerships to scale this level of collaboration and resources for our students."