90 minutes on the bus one way, and back

Susan Maricle has an interesting personal post from her Poultry and Prose blog featured on MinnPost’s “Blog Cabin” today. She writes of her son’s 90-minute one-way bus ride to school from her family’s central Minnesota farm. The post struck a chord with me because our oldest son has a similar length bus ride to kindergarten from our home in the woods north of the Iron Range. We often remark that our son spends three hours a day trying to be both good and stationary on the bus, which makes it more difficult for him to do those things at home. In a year and a half we send our younger twin sons on the same ride.

I had about an hour on the bus one way as a kid. That’s a lot, but manageable. With more school consolidation and difficult financial decisions ahead, the implications of these long bus rides should not be ignored. Right now I’d say this is the exception, but ride lengths will creep upward for everyone. It’s also worth noting that population growth in northern Minnesota is occurring in the rural townships, not the towns.

For time being I think our boys will be fine on the long bus ride, but there will be some interesting discussions about our options as they get older with more homework and extracurriculars to consider.


  1. This was never an issue for my kids, as they were last on and first off, home by 3:20, but it is an issue in our district, 2142, esp with the restructuring. (Growing up, I ALWAYS walked to school, a mile each way, in a large city, as in those days, the district didn’t provide buses unless your home was more than 2 miles from the school. Nobody walks anywhere any more, so I suppose if I still lived there, I’d be taking the bus.)

    I don’t know how the routes stand now, but a few years ago, supposedly there was a grant and program through the U to analyze the routes, to be more efficient. But I suppose efficient of WHAT is a question, ie kids’ time or bus expenses.

    I know that some times in the past it made sense for the school to have a van for several children who lived way out, so that they could travel the majority of the trip without all the stops every half mile or so. I guess it depends on where you live and how the routes are laid out. But it sure is understandable when some of the parents drive their kids to school to save an hour each way.

  2. Minnesota, thanks for the reblog! And for pointing out that this one experience could be playing out again and again throughout the state. I hope all goes well with your sons’ route.

    @PS, having smaller vehicles for routes in outlying areas is a great idea. Another one is Wi-Fi on school buses, an idea floated at a recent broadband summit.

  3. 3 hours a day is too much time for children (or anyone) to spend on a bus. I don’t have a good solution to this problem, but it is something that should be addressed.

    It makes me think about the “Molly Hootch” law that we have in Alaska. Back in the 1960s when civilization started to reach rural AK the state started telling families that they had to send their children to school. At the time the BIA had grade schools in many of the villages, but very few high schools. When children reached high school age they were forced to leave home and go to a boarding school far away, sometimes even out of state.

    Many families were obviously upset about this and one student named Molly Hootch eventually won a court case over it. The result of the court case is the Molly Hootch law, which says that if your village has more than 10 (I think it’s 10) students the state must operate a school in your community. The actual law is probably a little more complicated than that, but you get the idea. (On a side note, Molly Hootch now lives in Bemidji MN)


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