CLATSOP COUNTY — Beginning this month, all K-12 students in Clatsop County will have access to free public transportation, helping them get to school and back, as well as to extracurricular activities. The initiative launches as communities across Oregon are working together to address barriers that students face in getting to school.
Clatsop County developed the Fare Free Student Program in collaboration with community partners and with funding from the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT). The program will benefit more than 5,100 students currently enrolled in Clatsop County schools.
“We are hopeful that this fare free program will reduce barriers that some students face when wanting to participate in all school activities,” said Jeff Hazen, Executive Director of Sunset Empire Transportation District, the organization providing transportation through the program. Hazen added that they will be working very closely with schools to get the message out to students and parents about the new program.
According to Terra Hernandez, team lead for the Every Day Matters team at Oregon Department of Education, transportation is a major barrier for many students in getting to and from school each day throughout Oregon.
“The development of this exciting new initiative demonstrates how Oregon communities can cross-collaborate and leverage resources,” said Hernandez.
Community partnerships are an ongoing priority for ODE, as barriers to school attendance are most effectively addressed when community partners and agencies work together to find solutions.
The Every Day Matters team within ODE has intentionally developed partnerships with ODOT, the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), and other cross-agency advisory boards, such as Healthy Kids Learn Better, to further address chronic absenteeism in schools. As a result, state agencies have the opportunity to understand student barriers to attendance and to collaborate on shared priorities, such as supporting students by addressing transportation or health issues.