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Columbus Schools Purchase COTA Passes For 8th-12th Grade Students

A COTA bus in downtown Columbus in May.
David Holm
A COTA bus in downtown Columbus in May, after the transit authority reduced its offerings becuase of the pandemic.

The Central Ohio Transit Authority is elaborating on plans to transport Columbus City Schools students to class.

Columbus City Schools purchased 8,000 transit passes for all 8th grade and high school students through COTA’s Student Discount Pass Program. The school board decided to make the purchase in its Tuesday meeting, with a final cost of $216,000 using federal CARES Act funds.

This means students will have access to the public transportation system through August 25. They will be able to access busses through their phones or school-issued cards.

"Yellow busses will still work, but the district just wanted to improve access for older students," COTA spokesman Jeff Pullin explains.

Last month, Columbus City Schools announced a plan to bring students back to the classroom, an effort that was delayed for middle and high school students in large part because of a lack of transportation.

High school seniors will begin using COTA on March 15. Each week, more grade levels will be added until service is available to all 8th-12th grade students.

"The partnership gives access to after-school programs, public libraries, internships," Pulling says. "And students can use it on the weekend, after school, summer vacation."

Students will be picked up and dropped off at existing transit stops, and bus routes will not change to accommodate students.

Around 90% of the district’s high school students live within half of a mile of a COTA bus stop, according to Pullin. He also says around 85% of high school buildings in the district are located within half of a mile of a bus stop.

Adora Namigadde was a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU News in February 2017. A Michigan native, she graduated from Wayne State University with a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in French.