Philadelphia School budget cuts could mean more kids riding SEPTA

Officials with the School District of Philadelphia told parents at a Mt. Airy middle school slated to move to Roxborough that school buses won’t be provided next year.

Citing cash-flow problems, officials said Monday night that AMY Northwest students will instead be given SEPTA TransPasses.

“I understand this is not ideal, but this is the current option that the district is able to offer,” Jennie Wu with the District’s Office of Transportation said during a District-led meeting.

Wu explained that the state completely reimburses the District for TransPasses. The District is only partially reimbursed, 50 percent on average, for its bus service, she said.

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The option of middle school students riding public buses raised some safety concerns.

One parent said she was worried about children catching public transportation at marginal corners of the city and potential problems that may arise as they wait for SEPTA with students from other schools.

Another parent said she was somewhat weary about AMY students traveling to an unfamiliar neighborhood.

Parent Yvette Ousley- Frazier, who lives in West Mt. Airy, tried to calm some of those concerns.

“People fear what they don’t know,” said Ousley-Frazier. “It’s a very nice location.”

The plan to move AMY Northwest to Roxborough is part of the District’s plan to dramatically cut costs. Under a proposal introduced in November, AMY would move into Levering Elementary’s building on Ridge Avenue. Levering Elementary would close.

If approved, the District would be able to eliminate the expense of AMY Northwest’s lease at St. Therese of Child Jesus. The District currently pays $200,000 a year to use that space.

“I can’t underscore enough the seriousness of what we’re facing,” said Danielle Floyd with the District’s Office of Capital Programs.

The District still must make $61 million worth of cuts by the end the school year and is projected to face a $269 million budget hole during the next fiscal year.

The District is proposing to close a total of nine schools by 2014.

The School Reform Commission, which has final say on the District’s package of downsizing measures, is scheduled to vote on the recommendations in March.

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