Jaelin Cox, 6, attended prekindergarten three miles from her home in rural Cimarron County. She would get on the bus at 8 a.m. and be home a little after 3 p.m.
Then Plainview Elementary School District closed in June 2011, sending about two dozen students to surrounding districts.
Now Jaelin takes the bus about 25 miles to Boise City for school, getting home at 4:30 p.m. Bedtime is 7 p.m. so that she can catch the bus at 6:45 the next morning.
“That's two and a half hours that I can see her and be a part of her life,” her mother, Jennifer Cox, said. “I don't like it.”
In the Panhandle and other rural areas of Oklahoma, school district consolidation can mean longer bus routes — leading to long, tiring days for schoolchildren and thousands of dollars in added fuel and insurance costs for districts.
Jaelin's grandmother, Christy Cox, drives the school bus from the old Plainview district to Boise City. The new route is 55 miles each way.
“It is really, really hard on our kids,” she said. “By the end of the week, they're dead tired.”
Christy Cox worked for the Plainview district for 11 years, driving about five children to school in a red Chevrolet Suburban.
Now she drives about 15 students, including high schoolers, in a yellow school bus. The long drive is taxing on the children and on her, she said. She wakes up an hour earlier than she did last year — 4:30 a.m. — and gets home at 5:30 in the evening.
She said that when Plainview closed, “it broke everybody's heart.”
She sees some benefits, though. For example, she said the Boise City School District can offer the students more activities.
Plus, the students are pretty excited that they upgraded to a school bus.
“Why? I don't know, but they are,” Christy Cox said.
The Boise City District has been transporting students to and from the old Plainview District for years, ever since the high school there closed.