06 August 2008

Transportation Blues

How many folks here went to grade school in the Philippines? **raises hand** Remember all the private bus services that crisscrossed the neighborhoods before and after school in your community? Jeepneys and Hi-Aces driven by guys named Mang Abring, Mang Nilo, and Mang Toper with assistants to handle all the bookbags hanging from the windows. The kids were all crammed inside shoulder to shoulder with no safety belts or safety contraptions of any kind, no air conditioning, and no cushions on the seats even.

Ah, good times. When I think back at all the safety violations, it kind of makes me shudder. But I also remember what fun it was to ride the bus with my friends. Now, for my rant: why can't we have something like this here in the U.S.?????? Not the no-safety-devices and the guys-hanging-from-the-windows thing, but private transportation service provided by some enterprising young person who sees the need for such a thing?

I have such a need. This fall, my oldest is going to a public school out of our school boundary. Why, you ask? Fairfax County in Virginia has a wonderful language immersion program for grade school kids in select elementary schools. The program provides immersion instruction in four different languages -- Spanish, French, German and Japanese. Depending on the school, they teach three subjects in the immersion language (Health, Science and Math) and the rest of the classes are in English (Social Studies, English and something else, I forget which one). There happens to be a Spanish immersion school 1.9 miles from our house and so I put my son's name in the lottery figuring he'd never get in since the program is hugely popular and we live out of boundary.

Well wouldn't you know it, he got in. It's such a great opportunity for him to learn a language the natural way -- through osmosis -- that DH and I couldn't say no. So we signed him up. But the transportation! We have no idea how to work out the logistics! DH and I both work full-time at least 35 minutes away from our house. We could drop him off in the morning, but there's no way he or I could do pickup on a daily basis. The school says there's a PTA-sponsored carpool organizing committee, but school starts in four weeks and as of yet I have no firm clue how my son will get home from school. How do moms with full-time work outside the house work this out??? Neighbors? Word of mouth? Cries of help over mom support groups? I don't want him to enroll in the afterschool program because the day would just be too long for him, and we do have a babysitter at home. I want him to come home after school so he can snack, rest and do his homework peacefully.

Again, transpo issues. Aaaagh! Why isn't private bus service a viable business here in the U.S.? Is it the insurance? The requisite background checking? The high cost of gas? See, for families like mine who have an acute need, we're willing to pay, however much it costs. We already do it for my youngest (her preschool provides one-way bus service going home) and believe me, it ain't cheap.

It's times like these when I really miss some of the things I used to have in the Philippines. Like private bus service. I'm crossing my fingers and placing my faith in the Almighty in the hopes that somehow, things will work out and some kind soul will offer to give DS a ride home. Otherwise, it's off to our neighborhood school for him.

4 comments:

Mrs. Gavina said...

Thanks for the flashback, Kalay! That takes me back. Mang Abring! I didn't realize we used the same bus service. We switched to our neighbor Mang Joel in 2nd grade, I think.

I hope you find a solution to your transportation issues. Perhaps you'll be the one to introduce the concept of private bus servicing to Fairfax County? I'm sure you're not the only working parents there who need such a service. I wonder how car services got started?

Good luck!

Asianmommy said...

In our area in the suburbs of Chicago, there is a Kids Cab that will take your child to and from school. One of our daughter's classmates uses it. Good luck finding a solution.

Anonymous said...

our school bus in the philippines was actually a pickup truck with 3 wooden benches in the back! These benches were not even bolted to the floor! If i remember correctly, it has the capacity to transport about 25 grade school students all at the same time!!

it would be nice to have this service, especially here in suburban los angeles. I know for a fact that some latino communities have something similar where informal arrangements (among the parents) to pickup kids after school and take them to afterschool activities. Of course, it's illicit and "under the table" and the going rate is $25/ week.

Anonymous said...

our school bus in the philippines was actually a pickup truck with 3 wooden benches in the back! These benches were not even bolted to the floor! If i remember correctly, it has the capacity to transport about 25 grade school students all at the same time!!

it would be nice to have this service, especially here in suburban los angeles. I know for a fact that some latino communities have something similar where informal arrangements (among the parents) to pickup kids after school and take them to afterschool activities. Of course, it's illicit and "under the table" and the going rate is $25/ week.