School Busing As I drove to work this morning irritated to be caught behind a school bus stopping to pick up children on every corner, I recalled many prior experiences with school busing, as a parent and in working with parents, over the past years.
When buying my first house and choosing a school district for my two and four year olds, I thought a lot about what it would be like to put them on a bus every morning, and realized I could not imagine releasing them at their innocent age to a nameless, faceless driver. More importantly, as a newcomer to the community, that I would value the opportunity to take my little ones to school so that I could meet other mothers eagerly and nervously dropping off their own.
When years later I worked as an Assistant Principal of a primary school, the first thing I did each day was mediate disputes of children who had entered the building, just off the bus, who had used the unstructured time en route to school to develop their negotiating skills. Conflict resolution was an important part of the academic program and one I had unwittingly deprived my own children of.
Moving my children to London during middle school, transportation again became a consideration. Did we want to live walking distance from school or to rely on busing? The school told us that busing was provided. What they didn’t tell us was that beginning in middle school, and an absolute rule in high school, students would not be caught dead on a school bus, prefering public transportation. We made our decision without having had the opportunity to explore how we felt about having our preteen children riding the tube. We didn’t know the unwritten rules and we didn’t know the questions to ask to learn them.
Repatriating to the US, our middle and high school students chose suburban private schools, and there was no public transportation – only a school bus. We thought that this time we knew the right question – and we asked it. Twelve and fourteen year olds did, in fact, ride the school bus. But the setting had changed so the question was no longer relevant. Once again, as newcomers to this system, the appropriate questions eluded us. Was there bussing after sports, after play practice? There wasn’t. So I, as a working mother, found myself dashing out of meetings to drive 30 minutes each way to collect my children at the end of the day, setting up carpools with neighbors I didn’t know, and making decisions about values as an afterthought. Did I want my children in cars with teenage drivers I didn’t know? How did we feel about giving them keys to the car as soon as they were old enough to drive?
Parents who come to us to help them find schools when moving rarely place transportation on their list of criteria. Certainly it is never a dominant issue. But maybe they are missing an opportunity to ask the right questions.