Never-ending journey — by school bus

Parents of Harman School students are understandably alarmed at the prospect of their children traveling about 23 miles one way from Harman to Elkins by school bus twice each weekday until necessary repairs can be made at the school.

Many North Elementary School parents are also unhappy, because their children have to be at school nearly 90 minutes earlier this year. This may mean some kids will be catching the school bus before 6 a.m.

The North School schedule change is an experiment by the Randolph County Board of Education to see if it would be feasible – and more economical – to have all county school buses make only two runs per day. That change would mean all 12 grades – plus kindergarten and pre-K students – would be on the buses together at the same time for each run.

This is a lot of change to throw at parents all at one time – particularly parents of elementary-age children.

I empathize with their fears because I grew up in Montrose, riding bus 38-A – first back and forth to North School, then for three years to and from Elkins Junior High (as it was known then), and finally back and forth to Elkins High School for one year, before we moved.

We lived 13 miles outside of Elkins – a little more than half the distance from Harman to Elkins (and no mountains were involved in the trip). I remember winter evenings when, leaving the Junior High at 3 p.m., we wouldn’t make it home until 5 p.m. or later.

For part of each winter we would stand at the bus stop each morning in the dark, and then after school get dropped off the bus in front of our house in the dark – like we were living in Alaska.

In those days all 12 grades rode the bus together – at least they all rode my bus together – and I remember some teasing and bullying. It wasn’t directed toward the smallest kids, though, but at sixth-graders and Junior High kids. High school guys would “flick” the ears of younger boys sitting in front of them, snapping their earlobes with their fingers. It was a mean practice that left the kids with stinging ears and (at least temporarily) crushed self-images.

I also recall hearing many of what society considers to be the “dirty” words for the first time on the bus. I doubt that – in the wake of “South Park,” gangster rap and Howard Stern – the language of today’s teenagers is any more appropriate for the ears of 5-year-olds.

I also remember an evening when I intentionally got off the bus at the wrong stop. I mistakenly thought my friend and I could walk the Israel Church Road and make it home on foot before the bus drove all the way through Montrose and circled back to stop at my house. I didn’t make it home before the bus – I wasn’t even close. When I finally came in the front door my mother’s eyes were red from crying. My dad understood I wasn’t trying to scare anybody with my little ill-concreted nature walk, but it still earned me the last spanking of my childhood.

That worry I saw in my parents’ eyes keeps coming back to me when I think about the Harman and North School situations.