DENVER - Esmerelda Dominguez wants her son Jorge to have the chance to go to a good school. With programs reforming on the West side, she is excited about the possibilities. The problem, she says, is many families like hers do not have the means to get their kids to those schools.
"Just having that access to quality schools is worth fighting for," Dominguez, mother of a 4th grade student, said.
She is one of group of parents taking a tour of a different kind of school bus system called the Success Express. On the northeast side of town, Denver Public Schools employs an approach used by public transit -- having kids picked up at various stops and dropped off at any school in the region.
"One of the reasons why we're here is get on the bus and get on that route and see what is working and what is not working," Dominguez said. "What we can use, what we cannot."
She says a lot of low income families simply do not have the means to drive students to reformed programs on the West High School Campus and the Lake Middle School campus. And, Dominguez says expecting young kids to travel across busy streets like 6th Avenue and Federal Boulevard can be difficult.
"Especially with kids with special needs, you cannot put them on RTD by themselves," Dominguez said.
The tour of the Success Express was arranged by a community group called Padres y Jovenes Unidos. The activist group's co-founder Ricardo Martinez says parents need to know what types of solutions are possible.
"For us, this was important for parents to see and then go back into their community and talk about it with a clear conversation," Martinez said.
But, Veronica Figoli worries it sends the wrong message. She is the chief community engagement officer for Denver Public Schools. She does not want parents in southwest Denver to assume that a Success Express system is the answer for them.
"By presenting a solution, we won't be looking at what the problem is," Figoli said.
She says this is the very beginning of the process of researching potential answers to the transportation issues.
"We want this process to be as inclusive as possible," Figoli said. "We want to make sure we reach out to people who are normally not involved in these types of processes."
Figoli says a group of stakeholders will be formed to examine all the options available and come up with a recommendation by December. She says the district could have some sort of change in place by the start of the2014-15 school year.
"We have to educate the community on what are the parameters on the decisions that need to be made," Figoli said.
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