Average bus times for most counties could not be tabulated, because most don�t track when individual children board their bus.
Clay County is one of the few that tracks exactly when each child boards the bus and when they are dropped off. Because of this, the Gazette-Mail was able to determine that the average Clay Elementary student spent 37 minutes on the bus, more than the state guideline of 30 minutes. The average middle school student was on the bus for 34 minutes, the average high school student for 38.
The newspaper checked its results with transportation directors in all 35 counties, and made corrections to the database based on their responses.
The bus run times do not include the time children stand waiting for the bus to arrive or transfer time between buses. They are ideal times, not taking into account the days when bad weather or traffic make the runs longer.
For purposes of these stories, junior high schools were classified as middle schools. Buses for special education students, who often ride much longer than other students, were excluded from the database.
The Gazette-Mail also relied upon two surveys of county school transportation directors, one in 1992 and the most recent in 1996.
Those surveys are imperfect, because they rely upon the impressions of the directors and not hard data. If anything, they tend to underestimate the amount of time children spend on the bus.
Eric Eyre is the recipient of a six-month Journalism Fellowship in Child
and Family Policy, which has supported research for this report. The
fellowships program, based at the University of Maryland, is funded by a
grant from the Foundation for Child Development.