The City Council voted today to urge the School Committee to hold off action on a proposal to eliminate school buses for 4,500 middle-school students until it can undergo more study.
City councilor Tito Jackson (Roxbury), who sponsored the unanimously approved motion, said making seventh and eighth graders take the T to school instead of traditional school buses could expose them to far more danger and may not even save the city any money.
The School Committee could vote tonight to offer the students CharlieCards to get to and from school in a cost-saving move. Most students at Boston Latin School and Boston Latin Academy, which start in seventh grade, are already offered student CharlieCards.
But Jackson and Councilor Charles Yancey (Dorchester) pointed to both basic transportation safety - Jackson said school buses have a far lower accident fatality rate than other forms of transportation - and greater risks from street violence.
Yancey pointed to something simple: School buses have a bar that reduces the odds of students getting hit by cars when crossing in front of the buses.
Jackson noted the city's new gun buyback program and said he's not convinced it makes sense "to put 11, 12, 13 and 14-year-olds into that mix." He said BPS only has 75 school police officers "and we're not going to get any more."
McCarthy said moving to student CharlieCards could even drive families out of the city. Parents, he said, were promised safe transportation to and from school and now BPS wants to take that away.
Councilor Sal LaMattina (North End, East Boston, Charlestown) said there are already many parents in East Boston who don't even consider exam schools because of the long ride on the T their kids would face to the schools.
Councilor Ayanna Pressley (at large) echoed the sentiments, saying she is concerned about gang pressures for male students and street harassment for female students. She added she's concerned about the impact on student work in classrooms of such pressures.
Jackson said that under the current contract with the company that runs BPS school buses, it gets paid based on the total number of students, regardless of how many actually ride the buses.
Yancey said school officials couldn't tell him exactly how much they would save with the move. "How dare they go ahead and have a vote when they have not done their homework on a matter!"
Councilor Steve Murphy (at large) noted the council hold some say over city budgets and cautioned the council will take any School Committee vote for the move into consideration.