CINCINNATI — Just days before the first day of school, union organizers with the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers, parents and other community leaders held a rally outside City Hall Tuesday afternoon. Their goal: convince city and county leaders to compel the local transit agency to restore its dedicated routes for Cincinnati Public Schools middle and high school students.
The district was still working Monday night to iron out transportation details for high school students after the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority announced Metro would not bring back its XTRA bus routes for this school year.
XTRA routes offered a more direct transportation option for students to get from bus stops to school buildings. Without them, students will have to rely on normal Metro routes at bus stops that are already available, instead of the stops closer to homes and schools.
The school district has made it clear it's not a fan of the new transportation plan, but Metro and CPS have worked together to add safety precautions and make adjustments to the plan to compromise for students.
"We have done school-by-school reviews of arrival and dismissal and adjusted the plans as needed," said Tianay Amat, interim superintendent of CPS. "This includes additional routes, more adult supervision."
After looking at each high school in the district individually, the CPS administration outlined several last-minute changes to Metro's service for students at a board meeting on Monday.
Some schools will see extra routes and stops along the way, there will be more adult supervision at transfer hubs and schools, and Metro will have staff members at transfer hubs to answer questions and help students find their correct route.
Metro will also have shadow buses available to handle extra capacity until a better idea of how many students will be riding the buses daily emerges.
"This is really impressive the work that y'all have been able to get done in what seems like no time," said Mike Moroski, member of the CPS Board of Education.
Nevertheless, the teachers union thinks the transit authority needs to do more.
"In Cincinnati, there is already an unacceptable level of pedestrian fatalities and injuries. Too many students have been hit by cars in recent years," union leaders wrote in a news release.
"The city does not have adequate crossing guards to protect students at intersections. This reduction in services to CPS families and students is a betrayal to those of us who supported a recent transit tax increase for SORTA based on the promise higher taxes would actually improve and expand service."
Organizers rallied at 4 p.m. Tuesday outside Cincinnati City Hall. The first day of classes for CPS students is Thursday, Aug. 19.
The SORTA Board of Trustees was scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Tuesday.