By Dianne Weaver

Following years of West Virginia educational officials creating some of the longest bus rides in America, research done by the Rural School and Community Trust reports on the price being paid by WV students.

The study is based on four WV counties. Greenbrier and Preston, designated as high consolidated counties, and Fayette and Mason designated as low consolidated counties.

Researcher Lorna Jimerson, Ed.D, says "Over the past decades, WV has closed scores of its small, community schools, mostly high schools ... Most notably, students living in outlying areas are now required to travel much longer distances to reach centralized schools."

Community members have continued to voice their concerns that long bus rides take a toll on students, their homework, their performance and the degree to which they can participate in after-school activities.

West Virginia has continued to ignore its own guidelines about long bus rides, likely having the most expensive transportation system in the US.

Jimerson says the state's bus time override numbers vary dramatically from county to county. Challenge WV has long contended the state's data is inaccurate and poorly founded.

"Conspicuously missing from the state reports is the actual length of bus rides," Jimerson wrote, "Also missing is any information about the impact of long bus rides," such as decreased academic performance and dropout rates.

The study was based on information received from students in the four counties. Over 63% of the students responded.

Among glaring conclusions, almost one-third of the students in consolidated districts ride the bus for an hour or more.

One of the conclusions of the study was that WV should pass legislation that limits the length of long bus rides.

Bills have failed during the past two years to enact such legislation, the bills are not retroactive.

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