Staff photo by David Joles

Staff photo by David Joles

Patrick Henry High School students will get yellow-bus service for another semester this fall after Hmong families fought dropping them in a district switch to metro buses.

The change was announced at Tuesday's board meeting, but district officials insisted that they weren't responding specifically to Hmong concerns.

Four school bus routes will continue to serve the north Minneapolis school through the end of the semester in December. Henry had been slated to be one of six city high schools that ended school bus service at the Aug. 27 start of school in favor of providing passes for metro buses.

Hmong families objected to the change out of concerns their children were less safe on city buses.

"Thanks for listening to us," parent Kia Thao told the school board Thursday.  The school previously was served by 10 buses.

But Robert Johnson, the district's project manager for the switch, listed three reasons for the reversal.  He said Henry was the last high school to engage in Go-To pass discussions with the district; the opening of the Lowry Avenue Bridge has been delayed until October, affecting the flow to students to the school from northeast Minneapolis; and the crosstown service along Broadway Avenue in northeast Minneapolis is lacking.

Already some 2,000 students use the Go-To cards now to get to alternative schools or schools outside their bus zones.  Another 1,200 students, those who got school bus service or are eligible for free or reduced-priced lunch but live within the two-mile walk zone for schools, are automatically switrching to the passes. 

Another 830 strudents who live in the walk zone for their schools and don't qualify as low-income will be able to purchase passes for the heavily discounted price of $40 per quarter.

Passes will be given to eligible students at high school open houses before school starts, and will incorporate the student's picture ID. The board approved a $1.2 million contract with Metro Transit to buy passes on a 7-1 vote, with Hussein Samatar voting against it.  He said the Henry change smacked of favoritism toward one ethnic group, while others across the city also had concerns about the switch.