Beginning in September, all students in grades 6-12 in both Portland and Westbrook will be given free access to METRO for a four month period. During that time, data will be gathered on usage, and students will be able to provide feedback to policymakers.
West End School Board member Stephen Spring had been promoting a plan to offer passes to only high school students, which he was hoping to see implemented this past January. Spring was one of six elected officials of the joint finance committees of the City Council and the School Committee who met in the Fall of 2005 to create a list of consolidation recommendations to save money for the City.
The original plan was to give students free passes to use METRO on a voluntary basis to get to and from Portland High, Deering High or PATHS. During the rest of this academic year, youth were going to test the system, gather data, and advise METRO on how it could tweak its routes and schedules. On February 23rd, school and METRO staff came back to the school committee recommending that consolidation not be implemented for a number of reasons.
However, Spring insisted that joint committee's plan was misunderstood by METRO and school staff members, and continued to push the consolidation plan, which was adopted by the school committee last month.