Zig, zag, lurch, learn?

July 13, 2012 

Whatever the reasons or excuses, some of the bus rides that Wake County elementary school students are being forced to endure simply go on too long.

No wonder parents are upset. An N&O article Thursday spotlighted a bus route serving Henry Adams Elementary in Cary. One father said his 10-year-old son spends an hour on the bus to reach the school – located about a mile from their house.

Imagine having to ride through the neighborhoods for an hour or more, zigging and zagging around stomach-turning corners, being pitched forward and back each time the bus lurches to a halt. At Adams, a year-round school where classes began this week, Bus Route No. 9 makes 37 stops as it winds from one side of central Cary to another.

Bus routes in the Wake County schools are being lengthened because the number of buses has been cut in the name of efficiency. Nobody argues with efficiency – but the impact on students has to be given more weight as the bus fleet is right-sized.

Parents who can manage it may end up just driving their kids to school. What about those for whom driving isn’t an option?

Just walk, some would say, but that isn’t always easy. Adams, for example, is located near the Cary Towne Center mall. Walking there from some houses that are fairly close would be risky for little kids because of the traffic.

School officials say they’re working to streamline bus routes. That could become even more urgent as the new choice-based assignment plan kicks in for traditional calendar schools in late August. Some long routes may be unavoidable to serve magnet schools or to even out unbalanced enrollments. But the goal must be to keep bus routes compact enough that the rigors of getting to and from school don’t compromise a child’s education – as must be happening now.

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