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'I worry about my safety,' says Baltimore student without access to free after school bus pass

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Posted at 11:20 PM, Jan 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-06 07:58:42-05
As many as 2,000 students in Baltimore are affected by a policy that stops free bus rides after 6 p.m., according to the city school districts top administrator, and it's becoming a problem for students who have jobs or participate in outside, after school activities.
 
After his days at school, Kittrell Edmonds, Jr. travels downtown to the job he holds, needed to support himself and his family. But his hour long walk home to northeast Baltimore sends him through some of the most dangerous blocks in the city.
 
"Right now, they're putting a whole lot of young people's lives in jeopardy," Edmonds said. "I worry about my safety, I worry about my family. I have to get money. I have to provide for myself."
 

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It's a new wrinkle for the junior at the Baltimore Design School this year. 
 
The 2015 contract between the school district and the MTA limits the hours students not taking part in school-sanctioned activities can ride the bus for free, cutting it from 8 p.m. to 6 p.m.
 
"We need to change the paradigm in this town and make sure we're putting our young people first," said District 1 Baltimore City Councilman Zeke Cohen, chairman of the council's committee on education and youth.
 
Cohen held a hearing Thursday evening where parents and students aired their grievances about the issue.
 
The 2015 contract negotiations allowed the MTA to eliminate about $200,000 in expenses, according to Cohen. 
 
"Our contract was always designed to take kids to and from school and school related activities, not for jobs, not for those other things," said Sean Adgerson, deputy chief operating officer at the MTA.
 
Schools CEO Dr. Sonya Santelises, who took helm of the district last summer, said she doesn't want to wait until the contract expires next year, but her hands may be tied.
 
"If they're under pressure to bring in a certain amount of money, unless we get to the root problem ... then opening up the contract isn't necessarily going to move the issue," Santelises said.
 
However, until there is movement, students wait.
 
"If I have to take that hour walk, that's what I have to do, but I really just wish it would go back to the unlimited so I have a safe way home," said Edmonds, Jr.
 
Cohen said he plans to take his argument directly to MTA administrators to implore them to close the funding difference.
 

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