Aug. 07--High school students in Dayton who use public transportation to get to class will be able to ride the buses for longer hours during school days this year.
During the school year, about 1,000 local students every month use discounted Greater Dayton Regional Transit Authority bus passes to travel to and from school. Students only can use the passes to ride the bus during certain hours.
But those hours have been extended to allow students to participate in extracurricular activities, special programs and tutoring.
"This change just allows a lot of kids to take advantage of enriching learning activities that in the past they were shut out from simply because of transportation," said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley.
Whaley said she asked RTA to alter the program after hearing about student transportation issues during discussions with residents, parents, teachers and the City of Learners Committee.
The Greater Dayton RTA Board of Trustees unanimously approved extending the hours that students can use their discounted passes to ride the bus.
Hours were extended to 7 p.m. for the Red passes. Students with these passes can start riding the bus at 6 a.m.
Gray pass service hours were increased by 30 minutes to 5 p.m. Students who have these passes can ride between 6 to 9 a.m. and 2 to 5 p.m. Monthly school passes are $15 to $25 cheaper than traditional passes.
Whaley has hosted a series of events and programs through her City of Learners initiative, which seeks to strengthen the focus on education in the city.She said she heard from parents, teachers and others that the hour restrictions for student bus passes prevented many youths from taking part in sports, tutoring and other scholastic events. Local students who would benefit the most from tutoring too often cannot take part because they will have no way to get home, she said.
"We want our kids taking advantage of after school programs, homework help, tutoring, band practice, play practice, sports," she said.
RTA embraced the concept of longer hours because the agency believes it should assist young people who want to study and do the right thing, said Mark Donaghy, the RTA's executive director.
"We love the fact that we can play a role in helping these kids better themselves, better the community ...," Donaghy said.
Brittany Espino, 17, a senior with the Dayton Early College Academy, said she is pleased with the extended hours because her mother's work schedule typically limits her availability after school.
Espino said the expanded hours will allow her to play soccer and attend homework tutoring sessions without having to worry about finding a ride.
"Previously, I wasn't able to do a lot of extracurricular activities because my mom is a single parent and couldn't take me place-to-place," she said.
Officials said the expanded hours will be just for this school year but they could become permanent. A few young people may abuse the additional hours of service, but they risk losing their bus pass privileges, they added.
Dayton Public Schools requires students in grades 9 to 12 to ride RTA buses. Students at other local private and charter schools also use public transportation.
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