CHICAGO — For thousands of Chicago Public School families, it’s been a tumultuous school year. The loss of bus service for close to 5,500 magnet and selective enrollment students due to a shortage of drivers has created a hardships for many.
The key component that makes magnet and other selective-enrollment schools work is busing. For decades now, magnet school children have had to crisscross Chicago and travel from far away neighborhoods in order to foster diverse student bodies and equitable access.
But the drastic curtailment of bus service this year plunged a significant number working-class CPS families into crisis.
Rosana Tanon’s 9-year-old twins have attended Inter-American Magnet School near Wrigley Field since kindergarten.
“There‘s no way I can get the kids to school because they don’t open the door until 15 minutes before 9 a.m.,” she said.
The family lives in Hermosa Park and Tanon’s husband has carpool duties now that they’ve lost school bus service.
But Tanon says they can’t sustain it much longer.
“There’s no way,” she said. “It’s loss of income, more gas.”
Many magnet and selective enrollment parents WGN talked to are nearing the breaking point and have had to take time off from work, cope with construction delays, heavy traffic and frayed nerves to get their kids to school.
Carpooling and public transportation also add a strain.
Whitnei Moore and her two children drive every school day from Rogers Park to Inter-American Magnet Elementary.
“It’s been very difficult to get here on time,” she said.
Inter-American is said to be the oldest dual-language elementary in the Midwest and requires
at least 50% of the student body to come from primary Spanish-speaking households.
Maria Ugarte heads up Inter-American’s Local School Council. And though data from exit surveys is not available, she says the number of students dropping out of Inter-American is ion the rise.
“We were a 49% low-income school. Now we’re 42%,” she said. “So what does that tell you? A lot of low-income parents are leaving school.”
Top transportation officials at Wednesday’s Board of Education Meeting promised to explore different scenarios to address busing shortfalls.
CPS spokespeople said they’re required to prioritize transportation for “diverse learners,” which includes disabled students, among others, and those in temporary living situations. An undetermined number of migrant students are also eligible for transportation.
High priority students and their families in some cases have been offered travel stipends of up to $500 a month and CTA Ventra cards. But so far magnet and selective enrollment students not eligible for the stipend.
But magnet parents point to the $149 million allocated this school year for student transportation. And they want to know why they can’t get that $500 travel stipend.