School Committee Attempts to Finalize AV Policy

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School Committee Attempts to Finalize AV Policy

Honor O’Shaughnessy, Contributing Writer

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On February 8th, the School Committee met for the second time this school year to discuss the attendance violation (AV) policy. The meeting aimed to finalize the policy by June of 2018. Similar to the last meeting concerning the policy, Cambridge School Committee members, CRLS administrators, students, teachers, parents, and Cambridge Youth Council (CYC) members were all present. However, fewer students attended this School Committee meeting in comparison to the last one.

This meeting aimed to answer the following questions: “How can we all work most effectively together to finalize an AV policy by June, 2018?” and “What should be the process moving forward between now and June?”

CYC members shared their goals for the future of the AV Policy. In particular, CYC members Rory Millar ’19 and Elaina Wolfson ’20 have been leading the movement for an improved attendance policy at CRLS. Millar explained that CYC has been working on altering the AV policy “since the beginning of last year, because we saw this as a problem that we wanted to fix.”

School Committee member Emily Dexter compared transportation to schools in the U.S. in urban and rural areas of the country: “Most American high school students come to school on a bus … [However,] most cities probably don’t have school buses.” Due to the lack of school buses in Cambridge, a recurring idea was to develop a stronger alliance between the MBTA and CRLS so that students find it easier to arrive on time. A prime example of existing collaboration between the MBTA and CRLS is the 72 bus from West Cambridge, which arrives directly at CRLS once per day, right before school, instead of at Harvard Station. Millar discussed the inequity created by having only one bus that provides this service: “The 72 bus from West Cambridge … [is] only for students who come here in the morning, but there’s no bus for students from North Cambridge.”

Another issue that came up repeatedly was the expensive cost of transportation, which prevents students from getting to school efficiently. Student passes provide a more affordable option. For students, a single bus ride costs $0.85, and a single train ride costs $1.10. At first glance, the prices may seem reasonable, but the cost of transportation can add up quickly—especially for students who depend on it every day. Another option for students is the “LinkPass,” which costs $30.00 and allows for “unlimited rides on local busses and subways” for a month, according to the MBTA.

Millar explained how CYC is tackling this issue. “At CYC, we’re starting to work with certain city councillors and School Committee members to see how willing the city would be to subsidize that $30.00 for … kids who have free [or] reduced lunches.” He continued, saying, “We are trying to push forward because we’ve seen positive feedback from that when we have introduced the idea to city councillors.”

I think the best thing that came out of this meeting is the idea of getting all the stakeholders in a room together at the same time.”

— Emily Dexter, School Committee member

For the next meeting about finalizing the AV policy, School Committee members hope to involve more perspectives in the discussion. School Committee member Kathleen Kelly explained why this collaboration is important for the School Committee, saying, “For the School Committee, when we’re making policy, we’re not in high school seeing the concrete day-to-day, so to hear all those voices together … is important.”

Dexter agreed, saying, “I think the best thing that came out of this meeting is the idea of getting all the stakeholders in a room together at the same time.”

Dexter applauds the students who have gotten involved in confronting the attendance violation policy, saying, “I’m very encouraged by the maturity of the students involved; I’m just always impressed by what students have to offer in these situations. … It just seems like there’s a lot of goodwill in the room.

This piece also appears in our March/April print edition.