Ride on the magic school bus: buses making headlines across the country

I was one of a now nearly extinct population of elementary and middle school kids who walked to school. I packed my mesh backpack early and laced up my periwinkle blue Sketchers to prepare for the 15 minute trek, which really was uphill both ways, at least in part. I envied those kids who climbed out of the fleet of yellow school buses in the mornings and were dismissed a full 20 minutes early at the end of the day. They were the beautiful people.

That’s why an article in The Anniston Star that explored Piedmont City Schools’ lack of bus transportation for its students struck me. The Piedmont City School System is one of only a handful in the state of Alabama that does not offer buses for its students to take to and from school. The article notes that other districts in the area began busing students relatively recently, about the time that I would’ve been making my way to school on foot (the 90s). Piedmont has been exploring the idea of an in-house transportation system, the article said, but the costs are pretty prohibitive for a small school system.

The carpool line must be a nightmare.

Admittedly, my school bus adventures were fairly limited, confined to bumpy rides to the Children’s Theater and this museum or that math competition. I looked forward to racing for the window seat and fighting to get the window lowered to its halfway maximum. I avoided sitting on the wheel like the plague and searched for the dark brown vinyl seat with the least amount of yellow foam protruding.

To my surprise, the next day buses again made headlines, this time for a bus drivers’ strike in New York City. NPR News aired the story of a student named Maisy whose wheelchair-friendly school bus is out of commission thanks to the strike. A subsequent story noted that the drivers typically earn around $35,000 a year, with positions starting at $14 per hour.

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Why, then, is a system that was created to make parents’ lives easier now making them much more difficult? Parents in Piedmont, Alabama feel the burden of a lack of buses for their children; parents in New York City are now facing the same inconvenience. I guess that riding one of those big yellow buses isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be.

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