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Board in split decision on bus passes

A resolution that would have provided Metro Bus passes to elementary school students who attend schools outside the city failed to win the Buffalo School Board's approval Wednesday.

The measure, sponsored by Delaware member Louis Petrucci and at-large member Christopher Jacobs, was intended to amend a policy change enacted by the board in June that ended the practice of providing yellow bus service to students who live in the district but attend private and charter schools outside the district.

Instead, the board agreed to provide Metro Bus passes to high school students who live in the city but attend school outside the district. However, elementary and middle school students were not included in that policy change.

Petrucci said the policy has created a hardship for the families of these children, particularly those that are low-income. He estimated that 100 students were affected. Both Petrucci and Jacobs noted that the district would be reimbursed 90 cents for each dollar it spent on providing the Metro Bus passes.

"Our cost would be very small, the nonreimbursable amount and, I think, it's, very frankly, the least we can do for these families," said Jacobs.

However, board President Ralph Hernandez noted that the Charter School for Applied Technologies in Kenmore recently filed a notice of claim -- the step before filing a lawsuit-- against the district for its decision to end yellow bus service to the school's students who live in Buffalo, charging that the decision will cost the charter school $1 million annually to provide alternative transportation.

"It can have a compromising affect on the position of the district in regards to this issue," Hernandez said. "Having said that, I'm afraid that I would prefer to wait until after the process has been completed as regards to the notice of claim."

However, the resolution failed, 6-3, with support only from the measure's two sponsors and North member Catherine Nugent Panepinto.

e-mail: hmcneil@buffnews.com

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