Riding to School in Slow Motion

Last Updated: March 16, 2007

Riding to School In Slow Motion
By Lorna Jimerson, Ed.D

Over the past several decades West Virginia has closed scores of small, locally-based schools (primarily high schools), as part of district-level consolidation. These consolidations have affected families and students in numerous ways. Most notably, students living in outlying towns are now required to travel much longer distances to reach centralized high schools. Consequently community members have voiced concerns that very long bus rides take a toll on students, their schoolwork, and the degree to which they can participate in after-school activities (Spence, 2000).

The state of West Virginia has recognized that long bus rides are not desirable and the legislature has issued guidelines on maximum lengths of school bus rides. However, these recommendations are not mandatory and are not enforced. Recommended maximum one-way bus rides are 30 minutes for elementary school, 45 minutes for middle school, and one hour for high school students (Title 126, 2004). In spite of these recommendations, until recently, complete and up-to-date data on the length of bus rides was not available. As of 2002, however, district (county) transportation directors have been required to annually report bus ride lengths.

The latest available state report (for 2005) indicates that about 7.4% of West Virginia students ride school buses over the recommended times. This statewide average "override," however, does not offer a complete picture of bus rides around the state.

Download the report (25 pages).