St. Louis City Schools

Stories from the Yellow School Bus

Our Yellow School Bus Experience: Reliable Transportation To and From the St. Louis Public Schools

Getting kids to and from school can be a chore with all the work and other commitments that busy parents have — not to mention, many grade-school and middle-school students have variable start times, which can be tricky to manage. You just can’t be everywhere, so you are going to need help getting your kids to and from school.

The bus system offered within the St. Louis Public School system can be an absolute lifesaver. We have very good things to say about the buses over the years and would like to share our story both from our perspective and that of my kids.

Here are some thoughts and personal experiences from parents of three little ones who have ridden the bus to and from school since they were in Kindergarten.

Great drivers

We have had very, very good luck with our drivers. In fact, we’re on a first-name basis with and exchange Christmas presents, books, board games, etc. with our last 2 drivers. They — especially Ms. Maria, (our driver for the last 2 years) — have looked out for all the kids on their routes.

Ms. Maria cares. She is kind, takes her job very seriously, and is an all around great influence on the kids. She checks her watch when she pulls up as to say “right on time”. We love this woman and our previous driver was just as good. And, she’s fair and has disciplined our kids as well. She let’s us know what they are doing, and if something doesn’t seem right. She looks out for them.

Life lessons

If your kids tend more toward the sheltered, quiet, introspective end of the spectrum, it is good to be around kids from the other side of this spectrum. The rambunctious side of childhood is a reality and kids need to be around it and immersed in it to help them form their own opinions about the world and to know a wide variety of kids from many different types of families. The bus has toughened our kids up.

Smart/quiet kids tend to get picked on. Fact. Kennard kids have been referred to as “Kennerds” by some on the bus. That is hilarious, and my kids embrace it and wear it as a badge of honor, diffusing the bomb. They are not offended. Kids have got to take their knocks and to learn strategies to deal with people who are different from them. The bus helps with that necessary process. Diversity is a great thing, and being around kids from different lifestyles and backgrounds is a good thing for some families, the bus may be that only interaction.

I am totally OK with kids being challenged by other kids…in a healthy, playful way. Nobody wants his/her kids to be soft and sheltered. Unacceptable amounts of bullying is not the norm on our buses. We did have one run-in with a kid. We spoke to the driver who in turn spoke to the principal and that kid was removed from the bus.

Public transportation is valued by many, especially those living in the city people. I am glad my kids are getting a healthy dose of it and an understanding that it is crazy to expect to be escorted around by mom and dad all the time. Sometimes you have to walk a couple blocks. And that is a good lesson — one that I cherish and hope will allow my kids to be more open to public transport in their adult lives. When my kids get in a cab, or hop on the MetroLink, it is a familiar experience and they are confident. They are not scared and acting like a “fish out of water.” I think riding the yellow school bus has helped with this.

Furthermore, if you have a vocal PTO and dedicated families, getting dedicated buses for your specific school is a possibility. This year, Kennard has its own buses without the extra stops for shared routes.

Considering the complexities of modern life, the SLPS buses have been a great resource for us and we’re going on year seven.

A bus rider’s perspective

So it’s easy to give the adult perspective, let’s hear from a bus rider:

What happens if you see or hear something you think is out of line by another kid on the bus?

“You tell the bus driver or school counselor. They take care of it. Sometimes it is immediate; sometimes it takes a while.”

What are the benefits of extra time with siblings, friends or other kids on the bus?

“You get to get a head start on homework and talk about the day. You get to talk about everyday life with your friends without getting in trouble.”

Now that you’re the oldest sibling on the bus, how has that changed your experience on the commute?

“Being the oldest made me take on more responsibility, like watching out for my younger brother and walking him home.”

So if you are a busy parent unable to drop off/pick up or your child is too far to walk to school, the bus system has proven to be a reliable and viable option to consider.

Mark Groth

Mark Groth, a 20-year St. Louis resident and father of three, is an avid blogger and St. Louis booster. Mark's interested in St. Louis history, schools, neighborhoods, parks and culture.

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