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Hite hopes to avoid transportation cuts

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Superintendent William Hite said that some 7,500 Philadelphia high school students may not lose their transportation subsidy back and forth from school after all.

"We are working with several partners, and we think and are hopeful we will have a solution on that," Hite said at a Thursday evening meeting of the School Reform Commission. "Stay tuned."

Through last year, students who lived more than 1.5 miles from their high schools were entitled to free student SEPTA TransPasses. Under a proposal made last week to save $32 million — and close a budget gap so schools could open on time — the District planned to increase the distance to two miles for high schoolers.

The subsidy applies to students who attend District, charter, Archdiocesan, and private schools.

In the past when its budget was tight, the District has negotiated with SEPTA to minimize costs for students. For many families, paying for transportation can be a burden and yet another barrier that contributes to absences and tardiness.

The news was greeted with relief and thanks by Helen Gym of Parents United for Public Education and Jason Budd of the Archdiocese. Budd noted that the fastest-growing demographic in the Archdiocesan schools is students "who are at or below the poverty line."

Gym said that for the District to realize $3.8 mllion in savings, collectively the affected families would have had to lay out $6 million to $7 million.

Also at the meeting, Donyall Dickey, the District’s chief academic support officer, outlined how students this year will have more online resources in an effort to provide more personalized learning.

Karyn Lynch, chief of student services, explained the District’s efforts, and collaboration with city agencies, to provide more services to students in the system who have either been under the care of the child welfare system or in contact with juvenile justice.

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