Student Absenteeism Spikes After Rollout of Transit Bus Program

MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) has seen an increase in student absenteeism in the wake of its transit bus pass program, but officials do not yet know if the passes are the cause of the increase, the Star Tribune reports.

The district announced last year that it was partnering with Metro Transit to offer the Go-To Student Pass program, which would allow high school riders access to buses and trains from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m., seven days a week, for trips to and from school as well as other destinations.

At the time, a three-year pilot program had reportedly already shown improvements in student attendance and retention.

However, the Star Tribune reports that the district went backward on attendance by an average of almost one full day per student who used a pass during the fall quarter.

The MPS board requested a report with data on the absenteeism, but there has been no analysis of whether the bus passes are responsible for the spike. District official Robert Johnson reported that first-period tardiness is up at most schools, but he noted that it’s also up later in the day, so that’s not necessarily linked to the passes.

Still, the district is concerned about the absenteeism, according to the Star Tribune, so Johnson is talking with Metro Transit officials about whether it’s possible to discourage students from skipping school by limiting the hours that they can use the bus passes. MPS is also requesting faster reports on students who use a pass when they should be in school so that principals can intervene more quickly.

In a recent editorial on transit bus use in the pupil transportation industry, officials cited the potential for students to skip school as a concern with students riding transit buses instead of school buses.

The safety of students on public transit buses was another concern mentioned in the editorial, and it was a concern among members of the Hmong community in Minnesota who were opposed to the transit bus service at MPS, as SBF previously reported.

By Kelly Roher

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