Tuesday, October 21, 2014

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Rochester

RCSD to Implement New Bus Pass System, Councilman Wants Change

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Rochester: RCSD to Implement New Bus Pass System, Councilman Wants Change
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As you walk by the Sibley building in downtown Rochester, you might be calmed by the classical music being piped through the building's outdoor speakers.

"It's not bad. It's soothing actually," said Stephen Reifsteck who has been painting the building's exterior.

Senior Property Manager Beth Hartman said they're testing out the building's speaker system, all the while hoping to create a low-key, positive atmosphere around the building's entrances. Though not 100% of the goal, Hartman explained they're also hoping the music might keep young kids who gather downtown moving along.

"They do congregate here and smoke cigarettes and it's an eyesore for downtown itself," said Herman Ocasio, who is also working on Sibley's outside renovations.

Rochester Police said around 3:30 p.m. Monday afternoon they were on scene near the Liberty Pole breaking up a fight when a shot was fired.

Rochester City Councilman Adam McFadden said he was downtown at the time of the fights and helped one boy who was on the ground in a bus lane being kicked by other teens.

He said those involved were Rochester City School District students.

"I saw mayhem, a number of kids running and fighting while the police were trying to apprehend them."

A couple of years ago the Rochester City School District changed its transportation system, creating direct routes from schools to neighborhoods and eliminating the need for many students to transfer buses downtown. McFadden believes students are still misusing their passes.

"I think they have to go back and examine how many kids are really coming downtown with the bus passes and examine who needs to come downtown to transfer and who doesn't. We shouldn't pay for kids who don't need to transfer when they can get a direct route into their neighborhood."

Rochester City School District Spokesman Chip Partner told YNN the District is working with police and city government to address inappropriate student behavior in and out of school and it is dealing with the bussing issue.

By the first of the year, the district plans to implement a new Smart Card, that will be both student ID with picture and bus pass. The new card is non-transferable and will help the district track where students are going. Those violating their bus pass rules, can get their privileges revoked.

McFadden wonders if it's also time to revisit the issue of neighborhood schools.

"At one time we changed to this zoning system because they said the failing schools, we didn't want them to go to those. We wanted them to have a choice to go to schools that weren't failing," said McFadden. "Now all the schools are pretty much in the same boat. So why wouldn't we examine going back to neighborhood schools and keeping kids in their neighborhood instead of spending time transporting them out?"

McFadden has called for a meeting with school and police leaders.

Superintendent Bolgen Vargas says he's met with the police chief and RTS CEO Bill Carpenter. He said police are taking immediate action and RTS is working on transportation changes that will be announced later this week.

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