Students in music-oriented school protest proposed bus cuts

Students, parents from GAMP school protest plans to end busing to the school. Marching band played out front of the School Board building to be part of protest of the SRC. Wednesday, October 17, 2012. Gwen Deveaux-Way walks with her 11-year-old GAMP student grandson after addressing the SRC. ( STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer )
Students, parents from GAMP school protest plans to end busing to the school. Marching band played out front of the School Board building to be part of protest of the SRC. Wednesday, October 17, 2012. Gwen Deveaux-Way walks with her 11-year-old GAMP student grandson after addressing the SRC. ( STEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer ) (Steven M. Falk)
Posted: October 17, 2012

MAX HARRIS, a 7th-grader at the Girard Academic Music Program, leaves his Mount Airy home each morning to catch a yellow school bus. But his route - and his attendance - may be in jeopardy next year because the district is threatening to remove bus services.

"I'm not sure I'd want to make that commute," Harris said, holding an electric guitar in its case during a protest Wednesday afternoon in front of the School District of Philadelphia offices on North Broad Street. His school's 102-member marching band and color guard performed.

The school, known as GAMP, at 22nd and Ritner streets in South Philadelphia, faces a transportation dilemma because two-thirds of its middle-school students ride a school bus. The magnet school for grades 5 through 12 was founded in 1974 by Jack Carr, now its principal. It has more than 500 students from all over the city.

"Our biggest fear is the safety of the children," Carr said. "It's bad enough for teenagers risking that, but these are young kids carrying expensive instruments."

The school boasts the best attendance rate in the district, and Carr said cutting bus service would limit diversity.

Jenny Wu, deputy of strategic planning in the superintendent's office, said GAMP is one of only three remaining schools where students don't use a SEPTA TransPass.

"We are trying to eliminate buses because they are more expensive," Wu said. Bus service to several schools has already been discontinued.

"When we transition students next year from bus service to TransPass service, the district will save $800,000 to $1 million annually," she said.

GAMP will hold a rally concert at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 8 at the school.

Contact Andrew Eiser at 215-854-2513 or eisera@phillynews.com, or follow him on Twitter @andrew_eiser.

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