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Detroit — Mayor Mike Duggan and education leaders kicked off a campaign Monday to promote a northwest Detroit school bus loop pilot intended to lure Detroit children who attend school outside the city back into Detroit schools.

Duggan, who championed the school transit plan to create a united school bus loop for charter and traditional students, announced "GOAL," which stands for "get on and learn" at the Northwest Activities Center, which is a partner on the route to provide after-school services. 

The loop plan will 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 $1.2 million to $1.4 million. Participating charters, DPSCD and the Skillman Foundation are funding the system.

"This is a new era of education unity here," Duggan said. "DPSCD and charters working together to make sure we keep every child that we can educate in the city of Detroit."

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.

On Monday, DPSCD superintendent Nikolai Vitti said the decision to participate in the system was about equity and access. Vitti has said previously that choice and charter schools have been destructive for Detroit.

"It's natural for us to work together to overcome this challenge," Vitti said. "Let's forget about the politics of the past."

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 Foreign Language Immersion and Cultural Studies. The four charter schools are Detroit Achievement, University YES Academy, MacDowell Preparatory and Cornerstone Lincoln-King.

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 loop will pick up participating children at the school closest to their home and transport them to the school of their choice on the line.

When school is over, students can hop on the loop to attend programs at the recreation center. In the evenings, students can take the loop back to their bus stop near home.

Each bus will have a driver and an aide to assist children in need, Duggan said.

Duggan said he intends for the program to be a five-year plan.

"Around December we will know if it's successful," Duggan said.

Children who sign up for the transit program will receive a swipe card that he or she can scan upon embarking and disembarking the bus. Parents will receive a text message with each swipe.

Parent Tomeka Langford said she is one of those parents who needed to take an hour break from work to pick up a child from school to get them to an activity. Langford said she tried schools outside the city and found "they did not work."

"This program allows for me to have a sense of peace that my son will be picked up and get extra educational needs for school,"  Langford said."We need to get the kids back into the city."

jchambers@detroitnews.com

 

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