Did You Know? Weston School Buses

One of the things that it is wonderfully American and either excites nostalgia or bad memories is the big yellow school bus. Growing up in suburban New York and Connecticut, the bus was non-negotiable—there was no “mom, can I have a ride?” In my earliest elementary years, we had a good half-mile walk down a large hill to the stop–and the opposite in the afternoon. Our bus stop had more than 10 kids (I need fact checking from Owl mom) and it was pretty social. In Connecticut in middle and early high school, our dog would wait with us at the end of the driveway, just me and my brother at that stop, until we got a car and became cool midway through high school. Jim the bus driver, who looked 80 if he was a day, was a highlight of my afternoon bus ride–there were no bad days for Jim.

Weston, unlike many school districts, owns its own fleet of buses. On the website, it says there are 30 of them, but it may be 29 as one died at Westford Academy on Friday. How do I know this? 270 degree turn radius on an owl, folks. 16 of the buses run on diesel, 14 on gas, and while electric doesn’t seem to be in our budget, one hopes that someday in the future, we can make that happen. And before anyone goes off the rails on the costs of owning our own fleet vs leasing, know that this has been analyzed and I will summarize it as “we are still winning” with our own fleet.

What I didn’t know until a couple of weeks ago is that “Bob at the Bus Barn” had retired. Completely missed that. Now in charge as our Transportation Coordinator is Darlene Frappier, and I will tell you that I am a fan. Darlene came to Weston as a driver in 2012, after 14 years in another school system. There aren’t many who are going to know as much as she does about driving and maintaining a bus fleet.

As is totally normal by now, the northside Middle School/High School buses had some issues in showing up on time at the beginning of the school year. Traffic in town center, evil traffic lights, assholery (it’s a word) at the four-way stop downtown. As is the Owl’s wont, I called the Bus Barn. And had a nice chat with Darlene, who had herself driven a route that morning because the staff was down two drivers that day.

Owlets first bus ride, 2014

No one wants to hear the nitty-gritty of the northside bus saga but suffice it to say that between Darlene and the amazing drivers, we figured out a better way. New route, new timing, all without anyone losing their ummm… patience. One of the true joys of living in a small school district is that you get to know the individuals, and they get to know you (subtitled don’t be a ***hole because they will remember that and you). As is boringly (what? it’s a word) the case, the Owl is a fan again of most things Weston.

One thing for those of you without kids in the school system to remember is that you cutting off a bus at a corner may save you five minutes on the way to work, but you have made 50 kids late for school. So give the bus a break. Let them in. Leave earlier. That’s what the bus has to do–leave earlier. And while I am sympathetic to Weston elementary kids at bus stops at 7 am, remember that METCO Boston kids are picked up at 6:25 am from bus stops that are not in front of their houses. We are all one big happy community school system. And we should be grateful (Monday gratitude?) that we don’t have to call in National Guard drivers. Be kind to ours; we really need them.

For those of you who do not yet have the Viafy bus app, know that you can obsessively track the progress of your kid’s school bus. Not that I do that. Every single day. Contact the Bus Barn to get on the app. You can read about our Transportation department here.

Viafy app. Bus was late that morning…8:35 am and bus still nowhere near downtown

See you at the bus stop! Well, no, you won’t as my high schoolers have banned me from ours. Sigh.

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