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Rochester Public Schools and city still working through transportation option for students

Money will be a key factor in the decision for both Rochester Public Transit and Rochester Public Schools.

Posted: Nov. 20, 2018 11:00 PM
Updated: Nov. 24, 2018 11:20 PM

ROCHESTER, Minn. - Students using Rochester Public Transit to get to school is still a possibility in the city, but the timeline is getting pushed back.

This comes after the city council gave more time to a consulting firm to figure out if it's financially possible. Rochester Public Schools is trying to figure out if they can afford it too.

When it comes to putting students on buses, RPS Superintendent Michael Muñoz said time is the reason why.

The school district want to have one start time at all public schools. Currently, high schools and middle schools start around 7:30 a.m., but elementary student don't start until 9:15 a.m.

"There's a lot of research out there that shows that especially high school kids are the ones that need more sleep than any other age group," Muñoz said.

With one son in middle school and the other in high school, Tammy Mehlhop said later isn't always better for her 15-year-old who works a part-time job.

"So if they start later, they would get out later," Mehlhop said, "And he wouldn't be able to work during the evenings."

It's not yet a done deal, Monday night the city council voted to give a consulting firm more time to decide whether or not it's financially possible.

"I think they're going to have to look at how many buses they have to buy, at what cost," Muñoz $700,000 a year. However, that doesn't include what they'd have to pay another company, like First Student, to take around elementary, special education, and private students who the district also transports.

"At least for us, it's can we afford to do this long term? If we can afford it, then I think our board will probably say, 'yes, let's move forward and we want to do it,'" Muñoz said.

RPS tells KIMT in the 2017-18 school year, they paid $10.1 million for bus transportation. For the 2018-19 school year, they paid $10.5 million.

The study that was supposed to be completed by the end of this year will now be extended through the end of March. A contract would have to be approved by the city. Then the RPS school board will have to take a look at the final numbers before taking it up for a vote.

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