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   e-mail  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 K-8.” (Emphasis added) Another representative responded in an e-mail with basically the same statement  that any consolidation would not affect K-8. ).  (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 (501-682-4264) 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 501-682-2762.  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 K-8.”  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 K-8.  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 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 e-mailed 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 e-mailed 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

Bruno-Pyatt

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

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                       

 

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