Aug. 24—Manchester public high school students can ride a bus to school this year free of charge.
Under New Hampshire law, school districts are required to provide bus transportation for students who live more than two miles from their school — but only up to the eighth grade.
City students were being charged $8.50 a week to ride a school bus to high school. The Board of School Committee voted unanimously Monday night to remove the fee, allowing any Manchester public high school student to ride a bus for free.
Students in grades K-8 are already provided school bus transportation free of charge.
The move comes on the heels of a 2019 initiative announced by Mayor Joyce Craig and the Manchester Transit Authority allowing Manchester School District students to ride city buses for free.
"We continue to remove barriers to education for Manchester public school students," Craig said in a statement. "We saw a 15 percent increase in youth ridership on MTA buses after allowing them to ride for free, and with this move, we're ensuring cost is not a factor in a student's ability to attend high school."
"Not only is this move good for our kids, but the district could actually see a cost savings from eliminating the bus ticket requirement," said MTA Director Mike Whitten. "By streamlining pickup and no longer requiring drivers to punch bus tickets, we're hoping to add additional stops to routes and reduce the total number of school buses on the roads."
Kelly O'Brien-Hebert, the district's transportation coordinator, estimated the change could cost the district at least $61,300 in revenue.
According to O'Brien-Hebert, about 100 to 150 students ride to Central and West high schools on buses, and another 250 to 300 take a bus to Memorial.
O'Brien said the weekly $8.50 charge has existed for years. She said she knows of only two other urban school districts that charge students to ride buses to local high schools — Concord and Nashua.
In Concord, students pay $25 per year, though a waiver is available to those who receive free and reduced lunches.
In Nashua, the cost is $62.50 per year, or $1.75 a week for individual tickets.
High school students can now ride MTA and school district buses by showing their high school identification card. There is no fee for either service.
This initiative takes effect immediately.