Carolina Gallae did not attend her two children's recent parent-teacher conferences. There just wasn't enough time for her to make the four-hour trip to Jones Lane Elementary School in Gaithersburg.
Gallee only lives six miles from the school, and her children have a relatively short ride on the school bus, but without a car, she would have had to take several buses and then walk four miles just to get to the school, and then repeat the lengthy trip to get back home.
“There are approximately 40 parents or so living in this neighborhood” who can't pick up their children when they are sick, attend meetings and school events, volunteer or be as involved as they want to be, Gallae said through a translator.
But once members of the school's Parent-Teacher Association learned of the plight of many families living near West Side Drive (in the area around Route 270 and Muddy Branch Road) they decided they had to get involved.
“I was talking to one of the moms, a single mom with three children and no car,” said Jessica Berrellez. “She was receiving monthly food boxes from Manna, but with an infant and the bus as her only means of transport, this mother wasn't taking home all the food she was entitled.”
“That was an ‘ah-ha’ moment for me,” Berrellez said.
Berrelez collaborated with other PTA members to form the new partnership with Lyft. Now, when Lyft users input the code JLESPTA (Jones Lane Elementary School PTA) into the ride-sharing app, Lyft will donate $4 to a fund that the school will administer, which will then be made available to parents who need transportation assistance.
Through the Lyft-PTA partnership, new Lyft riders using the code will receive one free ride and existing users will receive a discount.
If a Lyft user enrolls as a Lyft ride-sharing driver using the JLESPTA promo code, the school – which has students in grades kindergarten through fifth as well as autism centers – will receive an additional $800.
All money received from this program will be converted to Lyft gift cards for use by parents who lack cars of their own or whose only vehicle is needed by the family's employed parent.
Riders do not have to be connected with the school to use the code.
Through donations and money from the Lyft Ride-A-Thon, the PTA hopes to make sure no parents will ever miss a school event because they can't get there.
“This service is going to benefit the parents who don't drive. This is going to benefit me a great deal,” said Gallae, whose husband works during the day.
Right now, the fund is building up, and no free rides have been offered, but the PTA hopes it will able to do so shortly.
“We just rolled this out,” Berrellez said.
Stacy Kravitz, PTA president, said she is aware of one parent who “had a student here for quite a few years, but she's only been to the school two or three times.”
For some parents, “public transportation is out of the question” as it requires two bus transfers and walking four miles.
This Lyft Ride-A-Thon “is for parent involvement,” she said.
At the end of the school year, if it turns out there isn't enough money for all the parents who request gift cards, the PTA will discuss donating to the program as a regular line item in its upcoming budget, said Kravitz of North Potomac, who has a second and a fourth grader at the school as well as a toddler at home.
Kravitz is not aware of any other schools in the area offering this program. However, she said, she already has been contacted about it by people not connected with Jones Lane Elementary School.
Nearly 30 percent of the 470 students who attend Jones Lane Elementary receive free and reduced meals.