Waco, Tx — Another year of school has wrapped up, and so has Waco ISD's first Transportation Pilot Program with the Waco Transit System.
Now, the Waco Independent School District, Waco Transit System, and the Waco City Council have important decisions to make over the summer regarding whether or not to fully implement the program for next year.
"It's a proven fact that attendance is critical," said David Ellis, Supervisor of Attendance, Truancy, and Dropout Recovery and Prevention for Waco ISD.
In an effort to boost school attendance and address transportation issues, especially among "at risk" students, Waco ISD partnered with Waco Transit System for the first time to offer free rides to school.
Ellis says he came up with the idea while in truancy court one day and put the wheels in motion to try out using city buses to take students to school. He says skipping school dramatically hinders a child's success.
"The more they miss, the lower their grades are, the more discipline problems they have," said Ellis.
For the duration of the pilot program, from May 1 through June 6, around 700 riders used the service, according to Waco Transit System's calculations so far. For officials, these numbers prove the program's necessity. However, participation isn't the only factor in deciding whether it will be offered again next year.
"We're going to have to look at all of the numbers and all that kind of stuff, look at what the costs are. And, then that's a decision that city council will have to make," said John Hendrickson, General Manager of the Waco Transit System.
"I think that with the success that we've had, surely, if it came to that, we'd find some money to help kids go to school," said Ellis.
Ellis says the transportation partnership is so unique that a Los Angeles County official called him to review the success of the program.
"We're still in contact because they're still evaluating what they want to do," said Ellis.
For now, officials anticipate making a decision about the program's future over the summer. Hendrickson says he assumes Waco Transit System, Waco ISD, and Waco City Council will be meeting around late June or early July.