The Northwest School has never provided a traditional school bus for students to travel to and from school. However, our most recent newsletter announced that for the first time, Northwest students have the option to make use of our new bus system rather than driving or taking public transportation every day. The bus system began on April 12th of Trimester 3 and it now operates on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.
The bus program follows five separate routes so that students can select the route closest to their home address. For example, Route A goes through Ballard, Magnolia, and Queen Anne to pick up students from those neighborhoods. Several neighborhoods in Routes C and D are located outside of the city, such as Renton, Redmond, Kirkland, Bellevue, and Mercer Island. It is extremely helpful to have included neighborhoods outside of the city in the bus routes. Many students at Northwest live over an hour away from school and have to take multiple buses and even ferries to get to school on time.
The new bus system was implemented mainly out of concern for the environment. Taking too many individual cars to school worsens our air quality, as motor vehicles contribute to most of the air pollution in large cities such as Seattle. Cars release carbon monoxide and are extremely harmful to the environment, not to mention the traffic congestion they cause. The bus system is also more affordable than driving every day and paying for gas, especially because financial aid can cover up to 100% of the cost.
Despite the benefits of school-provided transportation, there are some worries that come with the new bus system as well. First off, students who do not qualify for financial aid have to pay 425$ for a one way route and 850$ roundtrip per semester. Because the system is new, there will be a discount during trimester 3 of 2021, but starting next fall students who wish to participate will have to pay the full price each trimester. Not everyone can pay such a high price, and the cost is even larger for students who have to take the bus round trip due to busy schedules or convenience.
Additionally, as the state rolls back COVID restrictions, we still have to be careful of having a large number of students in an enclosed space. Many younger Northwest students are still not eligible for the vaccine, or cannot receive it because they are underage. The bus system is concerning with regards to COVID because students will be in an enclosed space and while masks will help prevent the spread of the virus, they are not 100% effective. We must be mindful about continuing to follow CDC guidelines and maintaining social distancing, as well as monitoring the health of anyone who chooses to take the bus to school, along with everyone else. This will be extremely helpful for at-risk students and families.
Overall, the new bus system is a great way to provide safe and easy transportation for Northwest school students; it will definitely make waking up and getting to school on time much less of a hassle!