Editorial: District should charter bus for Marin City students

In the past two years, students from Marin City have voiced concern to assistant principals about the distance they must walk from the bus stop to Redwood.

Currently, students who take the bus from Marin City are dropped off at the Lucky Drive bus pad, 0.6 miles from school, whereas students from Tiburon and East Corte Madera are dropped off directly in the back parking lot. It is an isolating experience, students reported, to trek across the highway overpass and watch as other students arrive on the bus mere steps from the back entrance.

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“I can’t even explain how it made me feel. It just made me question why didn’t we get a bus that took us to school,” said Tam junior Jaiana Harris, who used to attend Redwood but transferred to Tam in part because of the transportation situation.

A 13-minute walk from the bus stop to school may seem petty to complain about, but when it happens every day, the burden adds up. The most convenient bus makes students late to class because it drops them off just five minutes before the first bell. And if they take an earlier bus, they must sacrifice money or sleep. There is no good option for a Marin City student who wishes to show up to class on time, get a reasonable amount of sleep and save money with a Marin Transit youth pass.

Assistant Principal LaSandra White rightfully took action to support Marin City students by setting up a system at the beginning of the year intended to ease the transportation strain: Students taking the bus from Marin City would transfer to a Tiburon bus to be dropped off directly at school. Yet as even White acknowledged, the system was unsuccessful. Sometimes the Tiburon bus lacked sufficient seating, leaving students at a bus stop in East Corte Madera; White once had to drive students from that bus stop directly to school. Less than a month after the system began, it failed, and students returned to walking the more than half-mile.

We implore the Tamalpais Union High School District to provide equitable resources for students from Marin City by funding a charter bus that picks up students from Marin City and drops them off in the back parking lot. Though Marin City is not in Redwood’s designated zone, the open enrollment policy allows its students to attend any high school in the district. It should be the district’s responsibility to ensure they are treated like other Redwood students.

There is no contract between Marin Transit and the district, so while it may seem most logical to propose that the TUHSD renegotiate with Marin Transit to add a route for students from Marin City, it is in fact not possible because of federal regulations—for the bus company, the Tiburon and East Corte Madera routes are like any other.

In recent weeks, the TUHSD community has made its dedication to the wellness of its students known. If wellness is our priority, then why don’t we provide an alternative to leaving at 6:35 a.m. for school, which significantly reduces sleep time? Other students who come to Redwood from outside its zone also must wake up early––some students from San Anselmo, Mill Valley, and Fairfax face undesirable commutes––but few must leave as early as those from Marin City do. Ideally the district could charter buses for other out-of-zone students as well, but given limited resources, it should be of more immediate concern to improve the commute for Marin City students, many of whom rely on public buses as their sole transportation option.

It would not be unprecedented for the TUHSD to sponsor a bus for students with a lengthy commute, and it even has the funds to do it. Since 1993, the district has chartered a bus for students commuting from Stinson Beach and Bolinas to Tam, spending $80,000 this school year. If the school board can fund Tam’s charter bus, it seems reasonable that it could fund one for Redwood as well.

Please read our in-depth feature story for more information on this topic.

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