Giving truth to Memphis youth
By Sudeshna Barman
The well-publicized Shelby County-Memphis City Schools merger has given rise to many small but thorny issues that refuse to untangle completely. One that not all students may know about is that of the new district’s bus lines.
Busing was a critical issue at the beginning of the year. As some may know, high school hours are 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.; middle school hours are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.; elementary hours are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.. These changes were put in place in order to prevent SCS from having to buy more buses. Instead, the same buses are used to transport three groups of students at different times during the day.
Despite careful planning, the bus system was chaotic at first. Bus routes were changed; buses were late; bus stops drifted further and further away from students’ homes. Though most problems have now been resolved, White Station junior Tiara Campbell offers a typical story.
“I ride the bus to school. I have every year since kindergarten. Two weeks after school started, they sent out a letter saying they’d changed my bus stop,” she said.
The bus stop she has been using for 12 years had been exchanged for a new one more than half a mile away. Campbell would leave the house at 6:20 a.m. to walk 20 minutes to her new bus stop.
“It would still be dark outside, and there weren’t any other people there. It felt a little dangerous,” she said.
Even worse, no reason was given for the change. Though no one had informed Campbell, she found out that her old bus stop was still in use. After a few weeks, Campbell, fed up, returned to her old route. Technically, she has been riding the ‘wrong’ bus for the last several weeks.
Letters sent home with students as early as the second week of school indicate that the district’s department of transportation was inundated with calls, emails, and complaints via social media. Though additional letters assure that most systemic issues have been considered and dealt with, structural flaws mean that students will suffer in other ways.
SCS was reached for comment but did not respond by press time.
The one set of buses will now be used between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. and again between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. every day. This severely limits field trip opportunities. A field trip now must take place between 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. in order to have a hope of using the district’s buses. It also limits the number of students who can go on each field trip.
For example, White Station will no longer have its traditional senior picnic at Canale Farms. The farm is an hour away from the school, and the senior class is made up of 525 students. The trip was intended to last for the entire day. The district cannot provide buses, and the only other option is renting private charter buses. The prohibitive cost means that this year’s picnic will take place on White Station’s practice football field.
Field trips planned throughout the year will face the same challenges. Students will now have to pay anywhere from $30 to $40 or more out of pocket in order to book a charter bus. This limits opportunities for those who do not wish to pay or cannot afford it.
It may also have the effect of limiting the number of academic competitions a school can participate in. Math contests, Science Olympiad, and activities like Engineering Day at the University of Memphis may all be negatively affected by a lower number of participants. Winning such competitions could increase school pride and reputation.
Field trips promote social, interactive learning. Leaving the classroom for the “real world” is not only refreshing, but necessary. Sometimes students need a reminder of what their education will allow them to achieve – of what it means to be educated.