Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Computerized car-pooling

As thousands of Charlotte-Mecklenburg magnet families figure out how to cope with the loss of neighborhood bus service in August, parents at Northwest School of the Arts think they've found an answer: Paying for an online carpool-coordination service.

When the school board voted to cut busing, district officials suggested families could carpool their kids to and from the new "shuttle stops" that could be miles from their homes. But when you've got more than 1,000 kids scattered over 545 square miles of Mecklenburg County, lining up connections becomes a gargantuan task.

Carolyn Allison with Northwest's PTSA researched three Web sites that offer carpool coordination.

The group's leaders settled on Carpool To School because it offers the most automation and demands the least work from volunteer coordinators, says PTSA President Ginny Brien.

"It's so automated that when it's your turn to drive, you can get an e-mail reminder," she says.

There's a start-up fee of about $1,000, plus $60 a month, for a cost of just over $1,700 a year. But Brien and her crew think that's worth it to preserve students' access to a specialized school they love.

"If we lose a significant number of students it could kill the program," she says, but adds that Northwest has a strong waiting list to pull from.

Ten other magnets are in a similar situation, and Brien suggests their parent groups look into similar options. She suggests checking the Carpool To School link for details; if there are still questions, you can get her e-mail from the Northwest PTSA site.

Meanwhile, CMS has asked parents to notify them by July 22 if they need to withdraw students from any of the magnets because of transportation problems. It's not a rock-hard deadline; students can return to their neighborhood school at any time. But that should give some gauge of how hard the busing changes are hitting families and schools.


Anonymous said...

Why can't the parents set up their own carpool for free? CMS pays 1500.00 per magnet kid for busing as opposed to 400.00 for others. he shuttles is a very fair compromise to save money for the classroom. Get creative magnet parents.

Anonymous said...

Good for you, NWSA's PTA!

Don't let them close your school down, as there appears to be an assault on magnet schools in CMS.

Gorman and the BOA could have put AFs back into the classroom to save millions of dollars, but they would rather slash teachers and cripple transportation.

They care more about programs than people! Broad Award,,,humph!

Ann, how much did it cost the district to charter a bus load of teachers to the "avid" conference this week to ATL? Oh and rooms were paid for as well, courtesy of CMS!

Anonymous said...

.."It's not a rock-hard deadline; students can return to their neighborhood school at any time."..

But is that not the whole purpose of gutting the magnet program transportation? ACTS has been hard after CMS to cut the magnet program and get the kids back in the neighborhood schools.

CMS wastes far more money that that per child in a dozen elementary schools for no discernable academic cause. At least with the magnet busing, there was test scores proof high poverty students did better than at the "home" schools. And no, "home" are not the same as neighborhood schools. And yes it was better than we had before but still we are not moving toward a community sense where the school becomes a "jewel" for the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

at Anon#1 - that is what they are doing -- creating their own car pooling option.

obviously, busing was a big reason the parents chose magnets. some parents don't have cars or tight skeds - hence paying a smaller amount for the carpool service. they are getting creative.

read the whole article first.

Anonymous said...

To correct last poster, for NWSA, it is a county wide middle school high school performing arts partial magnet school. It is a special breed of student that attends there. Many have unquestionably performing art talents that are well nutured here and many successful alumni performing in professional companies. In past years, it has ranked second or third in academic performance in CMS high schools. Lastly though, I would point our that it is a haven for students deemed a little different at some high schools and subject to harassment and intimidation. In reality, these kids are heads above most high school students in CMS in maturity and acceptance of new students.