"Town Hall: Student Voices on Transportation and Education" will be held Oct. 22 at Rainier Beach High School.
Rainier Beach High School students and community members will host a town hall meeting next week to ask for more public transportation in their neighborhood.
At the event, scheduled from 6-8 p.m. on Oct. 22, the students plan to share stories about the difficulties they face getting to school every day and how that affects their education.
While Seattle middle- and high-school students who live more than two miles from their schools are eligible for a free bus pass, the students organizing the town hall say that policy has a disparate impact on students from low-income families who live within two miles, but don’t have the money to cover bus fare.
“Someone might say ‘oh, two miles, that’s not too far to walk,’ but it’s also in a neighborhood with the highest rates of crime, where walking to school isn’t always safe,” Rainier Beach social worker Chelsea Gallegos said. “In a month or so, they’ll be walking to and from school in the dark.”
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The district started a pilot program last year for students who live less than two miles from school but weren’t coming to school regularly or on time. Some students didn’t feel safe walking because of crime or traffic. Fifty students are receiving free ORCA cards from the program, which has helped with their attendance and, in turn, their grades, Gallegos said.
“This is just a simple solution to this really difficult problem of attendance,” Gallegos said. “It all trickles down.”
This isn’t the first time students from the Rainier Valley have raised the issue. Over the summer, 130 of them marched from district headquarters to Seattle City Hall to call for equitable transportation. Some students testified at City Hall about the difficulties they face trying to get to school.
In the long term, the students hope to eliminate the two-mile walk zone all together.
More information is available on the event’s Facebook page.