Long Bus Rides in Arkansas
30 Districts Out Of 102 Have Round Trip Rides of 3 Hours or More
6 of Those Districts Have 3 1/2 to 4 Hour Rides
Also see this link for other bus ride information
Someone sent me a response from a senator after the senator had received an email about long bus rides. This senator said. “We've been given very accurate statistics and no one in Arkansas rides the bus that long, The only people that have an hour and a half bus ride are some in Little Rock because of desegregation orders. Plus, any consolidation would not affect K8.” (Emphasis added) Another representative responded in an email with basically the same statement that any consolidation would not affect K8. ). (Of course the above “accurate statistics” were not included)
I find the senator’s statement confounding based on the fact that I have found 30 school districts now (out of 102 districts called) whose superintendents, principals, or bus transportation directors say their schools presently have some students riding round trips of 3 hours a day; 6 of those 30 ride 3 1/2 hours to 4 hours a day. None of those are in Little Rock. Further, I called the ADE and traced down Mike Simmons (5016824264) who is School Transportation State Coordinator; and he said his office had nothing, and he knew of no one who had anything, on the length of times students spend on the buses. They have square miles of districts, etc. but nothing on time on buses. Superintendents say they make no reports on time on the buses.
I called the Governor’s office, and they put me through to two or three people, and none of them had this information. The last person I talked to there was Jim Harris, and he didn’t know; so I asked who put together the internet maps for Huckabee on the school districts and neighboring schools that supposedly proved there would be no long bus rides if schools consolidated. Mr. Harris gave me Shelby Johnson’s name, and told me how to get in touch with him. (I don’t usually use names but when politicians and bureaucrats are making decisions for all the students in Arkansas and someone says my material is false, I will defend my information.)
Mr. Johnson was very nice and first referred me back to Mike Simmons at the ADE, but I told him I had already talked with him. I specifically asked Mr. Johnson if when they put the maps together they estimated or tried to determine the time the students spent on the buses. He said no, and further said there was no way to get this information about the length of the bus rides. He said it could be done but was not practical. His explanation was that you would have to map every bus route, where every single bus stop is, where every kid got on the bus, how many kids got on the bus, how many seconds they spend at each stop; and you would have to have speed limits on all the roads on bus routes. Mr. Johnson is the State Geographic Information Coordinator, and his number is 5016822762. Despite the hundreds of reports that the ADE requires of schools, I don’t suppose they ever considered it important enough to require a report from the schools on something this essential or practical.
Of course, there is one way the legislators could test this information. Superintendents have invited them to come and ride on their routes; some said they would love for the legislators or the media to ride their routes. If the 35 senators would fan out one day and go ride the routes of the 30 school districts where some students ride for 3 to 4 hours a day, they could compile their knowledge and know for sure about the busing situation. That would probably be the best thing they could possibly do for the students in Arkansas. Then, if the representatives joined in, they could map the length of rides in at least half the school districts in Arkansas in half a day.
In reference to the irrational quote by the senator, “ Plus, any consolidation would not affect K8.” If two schools consolidate, you have two or three options. In most cases the junior high school students are going to attend school at one of the two school’s junior high and high schools, and the high school students are probably going to attend school at the other existing junior high and high school. To get those students to the other campus, you have to bring students to their original school and then transfer them on to the other school campus. To transfer students from one set of buses to the next set, every superintendent has said 20 minutes is the minimum needed, and 30 minutes may be more realistic. Practically no school would be closer than 15 minutes by bus ( and most would be longer than that) That distance and transfer time adds 35 minutes one way or 70 minutes round trip. This means every child in the district will catch the bus 35 minutes earlier at the very minimum and get home 35 minutes later in the day.
About 3 out of 4 school districts in Arkansas already have 1 hour bus rides or more. Add 70 minutes to 2 hours the students are already riding , and almost any school that is consolidated will have students riding over 3 hours round trip for junior high and high school. Elementary students will have 70 minutes added on to the bus ride or to their school day one or the other. I think I can safely say that would affect K8. I did discuss the consolidation possibilities with superintendents, and this option was the reasonable one to them.
Another option would be to buy more buses and run double routes to pick up the high school students on separate buses which would be cost prohibitive. The junior high and high school students would be the only ones who were bused farther. The students would still have to ride the buses farther distances than to the original school campus. No superintendent with whom I discussed consolidation of the schools thought this was a reasonable possibility.
The third alternative would be to build new high schools centrally located, but you would still have the longer routes for high school students and massive increase in funding which Arkansas cannot afford. . According to bus drivers, it can take 1 hour to pick up students on a 10 miles route, especially in those mountainous gravel rugged roads.
For those who think 20 minutes may be too long to transfer students from the buses to transport on to the next school, from my own practical experience standing on bus duty, I found it an amazing feat to watch 700 junior high and high school students get on the buses and have the parking lot cleared in 10 minutes. The catch, though, was that I would see the buses lining up 20 and sometimes 30 minutes before the bell rang in the afternoon to make this smooth transition happen. In the morning, however, the bus arrivals were spaced about 20 minutes apart, the first bus arriving at least 20 minutes before the last bus. Schools will have to take that into consideration if they transfer students to other campuses. There is no way all the buses can get to the school campus at the same time. There are too many variables in the bus routes. All this will have to be taken into consideration which might make the 20 minute transfer impossible and require more like 30 minutes to be added to the transportation time to the next school. This is time that is simply wasted and does not increase learning.
You might find it of interest to know that if consolidated with the nearest school, numerous schools would have some students on the bus from 4 to 5 hours a day.
I know this seems impossible, but almost all schools with 1 hr bus rides now one way would go to 1 ½ hours one way if they were consolidated. When you add time for distance to next school which in practically no case would be less than 15 minutes by bus (and farther in numerous cases) and the transfer time of 20 minutes, that would be 70 minutes minimum round trip added to the bus rides of the students. Out of 102 schools, I have found 25 that have anything less than 1 hour rides; so 3 out of 4 schools probably already have 1 hour rides. It would be easy to conjecture that if the same thing holds true for the other schools in Arkansas as in the first 102 I have checked ( and I don’t know that yet) that ¾ of the schools in Arkansas would have 3 hour rides or more if they consolidated.
Schools with 2 ½ round trip rides now would have round trips of 3 hours and 10 minutes minimum. There are 15 schools out of the 102 that have 1 hr. 15 minutes rides.
Those with three hour rides now would have minimum of 4 hours and 20 minutes in most cases. There are 24 of those out of the 102 schools I have contacted. Those with 3 ½ hours to 4 hour now (there are 6 of those) would have impossible situations.
The Rural School and Bus Rides in Five States study conducted by Dr. Craig Howley, Director of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools, “found that the situation was worst in Arkansas, where nine out of 10 elementary schools have longest bus rides lasting at least 30 minutes, and one in three schools have longest rides of an hour or more each way.
I have called only about 102 school districts which would be about 1/3 of our schools. I first started calling them alphabetically, and then when I heard about the bill with cut off of 500, I started calling by size. I called or emailed each superintendent and got responses. If the superintendent was not in, I talked with a principal or bus transportation director who had this information. I am again including the names of the schools I have contacted, mostly by phone. I plan to finish it sooner or later because I think it is urgent to have the truth when making important decisions. You can find the names of the schools with long rides now and the estimated time if they consolidate by following this link: http://www.afaar.org/Bus%20Rides%20AFA%20Handout.htm www.afaar.org. This article will appear first followed by the list of names. Or you can go to www.afaaar.org and from home page look for new item that says "Long Bus Rides In Arkansas"
I have contacted 102 school districts as of now. I first started calling them alphabetically, and then when I heard about the bill with cut off of 500, I started calling by size. I called or emailed each superintendent and got responses. If the superintendent was not in, I talked with a principal or bus transportation director who had this information. I specifically asked for the longest time any students in their district were actually on the bus. I did not ask for length of time bus drivers were on the bus.
Schools with 3 ½ to 4 hour round trip rides at the present time. (Some of these are within minutes of 4 hours a day) School District Name and enrollment number given. Enrollment won't be exact because they are not from this year's enrollment.
School Dist. Enrollment 
Alpena 550 
Gillett 235 
Highland 1479 
Kingston 271 
Mountain Home 3902 
St. Paul 339 
Schools with 3 hours round trip rides at the present time. (Either 3 hours plus or within 10 minutes of 3 hours) on bus each day. (Scranton & Randolph have 3 hour rides when students are living in the far corners of their districts.)
Bright Star 192 
Deer 255 
DeWitt 1170 
Elaine 454 
Flippin 923 
Forrest City 3,465 
Hermitage 549 
Huntsvile 2045 
Jasper 569 
Leslie 266 
Marshall 700 
Mt. Judea 240 
Newport 1736 
Norfork 458 
Oden 233 
Perryville 949 
Pleasant View 242 
Randolph 284 
Scranton 391 
Sparkman 272 
St. Joe 255 
Umpire 110 
Waldron 1665 
Following schools would have 4 hour rides or more and some 5 hour rides if they consolidate with nearest school. In some cases that would not make them big enough not to meet the consolidation standards. See above article as to why these rides would be this long. Some superintendents gave me these estimated times, and others just gave me bordering schools. Based on transfer time, etc. and distances these are estimated because there is no certainty about who would consolidate with whom.
Alpena 
Alread 
Brigit Star 
Calico Rock 
Cross County 
Deer 
DeWitt 
Elaine 
Flippin 
Gillettt 
Hector 
Highland 
Jasper 
Kingston 
Leslie 
McCroy 
Mt. Holly 
Oden 
Perryville 
Randolph 
St. Paul 
Southside 
St. Joe 
Taylor 
Umpire 
Delaplaine should be added to above list  4 hour rides if they consolidate.
Schools that Would Have 3 Hours to 3 ½ hour Rides if they consolidate based on nearest school. In some cases that would not make them big enough not to meet the consolidation standards. (See note above on 4 hour rides for explanation.
Bearden 
BrunoPyatt 
Cedarville 
Cord Charlotte 
Crawfordsville 
Emmett 
Emerson 
England 
Fountain Hill 
Gravette 
Harrisburg 
Hermitage 
Lakeview 
Kirby 
Lamar 
Lavaca 
Lead Hill 
Lynn 
McNeil 
Marshall 
Mt. Holly 
Mt. Judea 
Nemo Vista 
Norfork 
Parking 
Paron 
Perry 
Pleasant View 
Saratoga 
Scranton 
Sparkman 
Strong 
Waldron 
Weiner 
Western Groves 
Wiliford 
