By Ashley King
The Oshkosh Board of Education and Common Council have scheduled a joint meeting for Wednesday, Jan. 31, where they will explore the possibility of offering free bus transportation for students.
While many middle school and high school students use GO Transit already, a survey last year showed that 26 percent of students have missed at least one day of school because they couldn’t afford bas fare or find an affordable alternative.
Representatives of ESTHER, an interfaith social justice group, raised the issue with the council at its Nov. 28 meeting.
“We wanted to come and urge that there be some dialogue between the City Council and the school board of how we can ensure that all our K-12 students are at school—that transportation is not a barrier to them,” said Deb Martin, a member of ESTHER.
In addition to missing class, students who cannot afford bus fare for school are often not able to participate in after school activities or hold after school jobs, said Jennifer Considine, a communications professor at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and ESTHER member.
She proposed a revenue agreement between GO Transit and the school district in order to solve this issue. It is estimated that this solution would cost roughly $50,000.
“We certainly already have those revenue agreements with UW Oshkosh where all faculty, students, and staff ride the bus for free,” said Considine.
The Oshkosh school board is very optimistic that the funds will be found to support the solution of this issue.
“We are all very much on the same page and want to make it work,” said school board member Stephanie Carlin.
“I so appreciate the work that ESTHER has done with creating awareness for this issue,” she said.
The joint meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at City Hall.
Photo: Downtown transit center in Oshkosh, by Ashley King.