Students express bus safety concerns at middle school

Middle school bus arrival times rely on high school’s schedule, leading to some challenges.

Buses+line+up+outside+of+the+middle+school.

Kaitlyn Ho '23

Buses line up outside of the middle school.

Kaitlyn Ho '23, Reporter

Thirty minutes before fifth block, buses pull out of the high school driveway and a surge of students spills over the sidewalks on the back of Strath Haven Middle School at the ring of the 2:30 p.m. bell.

The high school avoids such surges because there are juniors and seniors who are able to drive. But in the wake of COVID, now that many parents are back to their workplaces, families are unable to drive their middle school kids to and from school.

On Friday, Nov. 11, a torrential pour of rain forced middle schoolers to pack into the small concrete space under the awning while waiting for their buses. Sixth grader Beatrice Roytshteyn described the chaos of the day.

“I managed to make it out of the crowd into the pouring rain because I was like, ‘you know what, being out in the pouring rain is better than being in a crowd of people’,” Roytshteyn said.

When it isn’t raining, kids sprint out of the doors and down the stairs, thrilled the day is over, only to be constricted on the sidewalk in a thick mass of backpacks.

“It’s so crowded most of the time,” Roytshteyn said. “Kids usually get pushed out into the street area, so as buses are pulling up, kids are at risk of getting run over.”

Eighth-grader Juliette Lloyd also wants the bus lineup to improve. 

“Maybe call the buses down,” Lloyd suggested. On the day it rained, Lloyd was confined to the small space under the awning. “Everyone was trying not to get wet, and everyone was just crowding around the door, and I could literally not move.”

On the bus though, there are more similarities between middle schoolers’ and high schoolers’ conduct.

“A lot of the kids, they need to sit down and face forward, because I have to stop fast if there’s an accident, don’t be just like missiles flying through the air,” Mr. John Caper, a bus driver for the school district, said. “They need to remain in their seats, keep the aisle open in case of an emergency.” 

Middle school principal Dr. Christopher Matsanka aspires to find a solution to the timeliness of the buses, which he hopes will solve the rest of the problem. However, he does not see it as an immediate and pressing issue.

“You know, one of the struggles at the middle school is that the buses come… based off of the high school runs. The high school and middle school runs are kind of tight,” Matsanka said. “So depending on how the buses leave the high school, like if there’s a higher traffic pattern one day, it’s going to take longer, getting out of the parking lot.. it takes longer for those buses to get here, which means our kids wait a little bit longer.”

The timeliness of the buses, though inconvenient, is currently not one of Matsanka’s primary concerns. 

“Quite honestly, it’s not a huge issue. The kids seem to get home at a reasonable time, even though it may take some of the buses a little bit longer to get from the high school,” he said. “It’s really the rainy days that are the struggle. If it’s raining really hard, we hold the students.” 

In terms of safety and bus conduct at the middle school, Dr. Matsanka is mostly unbothered, as he believes in the students’ behavior. 

“I think most of the kids stay on the sidewalk. We have a lot more staff out there this year than we have in past, we have two security aides, which are new to the district,” Matsanka said. “It’s been helpful to have that person out there every day before the kids even start coming out, that’s been a help. But for the most part, the kids are really good.”