The Sunday Gazette-Mail conducted a year-long investigation into the burden that school closings can place on the state�s rural children. Today�s stories are part one of an ongoing series.
For today�s stories, more than 80 people were interviewed and thousands of pages of school closing documents, bus schedules and internal education department records were reviewed.
The Gazette-Mail also tried to answer the question, �Just how long are kids on the bus?�
But no state or county agency kept track of the time children spend riding buses.
School districts in other states, such Charlotte-Mecklenburg in North Carolina, keep computerized bus records. The Charlotte Observer used that data to determine the average bus ride for area students.
In West Virginia, each county school system keeps those records differently. Many rural districts still keep handwritten bus logs. Others keep records in a computer word processing format. A few use a database program.
Most keep only records of bus runs � when they start and when they end � but not on when each individual child is picked up by the bus.
Through the Freedom of Information Act, the Gazette-Mail obtained records for 1,569 bus runs for the state�s 35 most rural counties. (Those counties were considered for federal school construction funds because they were the most sparsely populated in the state.)
Over the course of nine months, the newspaper constructed a database including when each run started, when it stopped, and how much time children rode in-between.
The bus runs represent the longest possible time a child might ride a bus. The run began when the first person stepped on the bus, and ended when the children were dropped off at an elementary, middle or high school.