Aliza Saunders
Features Editor
November 1, 2016
     Fifty years after its creation, Atholton High School continues to provide new opportunities for students seeking to become active participants in its community.  This year, Atholton welcomes its first ever Activity Bus, a school-sponsored bus departing Atholton every Tuesday at 3:45 in the afternoon.
     “The intended purpose [of this bus] is to allow students to be able to do clubs or stay after school with a teacher when they might not necessarily be able because of transportation issues,” said Athletics and Activities Manager Ms. DeFrances.
     The Activity Bus drops students off at five fixed locations determined by the Transportation Office. However, depending on where the students live, it may be a half to one mile walk to their home, Ms. DeFrances said.
    According to Ms. DeFrances, clubs and other activities usually meet until 3:15 or 3:30, so a 3:45 departure time seemed to accomodate the most students. Furthermore, Atholton’s administration worked in conjunction with a Mellor’s Bus Service to find a time that satisfied both parties needs. This time gives the bus company ample time to transport athletic teams and then return to Atholton in time for the Activity Bus, Ms. DeFrances said.
    To ride the bus, students must return a signed permission slip in order for the administration to verify parent consent.  While the main purpose of the permission slip is to ensure the safety of the students, it also forces students to take initiative, Ms. DeFrances said. “I think it’s something where it does take a little forethought, and some people like to do things a little bit last minute.”
    Thus far, only a handful of students have ridden the Activity Bus. One of these students include ninth grader Jasyria Cunningham, a consistent rider of the Activity Bus since its first day of operation on Tuesday, September 20. Cunningham stays after school for various clubs like Speech and Debate, a club that often holds its meetings on Tuesday afternoons.
    “Since I don’t have a ride right now because my mom works really late, I have to take the [Activity] Bus if I want to do clubs and things,” Cunningham said.
   Though Cunningham has become a regular rider of the Activity Bus, she is not a fan of the 3:45 departure time. She said an “earlier [departure time] is better because all the clubs I do usually end really early [around] 3:00-3:10.” While waiting for the Activity Bus, Cunningham reads her assigned English novel or completes her math homework, but her ideal departure time would be 3:15.
    In the future, Cunningham hopes this bus will be offered at least two days a week, allowing her to participate in clubs on days besides Tuesdays. Even so, Ms. DeFrances said that she doesn’t see the Activity Bus running everyday.

“The intended purpose [of this bus] is to allow students to be able to do clubs or stay after school with a teacher when they might not necessarily be able because of transportation issues.”

     In the past couple of years, a few Howard County Schools have offered an Activity Bus and “the county decided that it was more of a need for all the schools to have it [and for] schools who did have, it was well liked and well used,” Ms. DeFrances said.
    This school year, Howard County Public Schools were pushed to offer an Activity Bus in order to ensure equal opportunities for students attending each school, according to Ms. DeFrances. Several Howard County schools currently offer an Activity Bus, all of which have been provided by through various grant systems.          
     Atholton applied and received the Activity Bus grant from the Bright Minds Foundation, a foundation that provides services and support to Howard County schools when funds are not available in the school system’s budget. According to Ms. DeFrances, Atholton coordinated with the bus company, determined the pricing of the bus, and then the Bright Minds Foundation granted that amount of money to Atholton High School.
    Ms. DeFrances noted that the activity bus is currently running only through the first semester and will be evaluated then for its effectiveness. While the future for the Atholton Activity Bus is unknown, right now the Activity Bus serves as a great tool for students to become involved in Atholton.
    “I find that it’s much better for people to be involved in as many things and to get the most out of their high school experience,”Ms. DeFrances said. “So I think any opportunity we can give people to get additional time here at school, whether it be for help of for a club, is going be good for them.”

Posted by Aliza Saunders