HOLBROOK, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) – Three hours outside of the Valley, students in the Holbrook Unified School District have to take long bus rides to get to school. Bus driver Mary Tsosie’s route takes about three hours each direction, every single day. She’s been driving the same route for the last 16 years.

“I get up early in the morning, around about 4,” she said. “My first pickup is at 5:45. My last stop they get off is at 8:45.”

[WATCH: Getting kids to, from school is unique challenge for district]

Holbrook Unified School District has nearly 2,000 students. The district is roughly the same size as Rhode Island and includes parts of the Hopi Reservation and the Navajo Nation.

Senior Myron Begay rides Tsosie’s bus from the reservation to school.

“I get up at 4:30 in the morning, ride the bus, close to an hour and a half, go to school and then an after-school program," he said. "Then I go to practice afterward, and then I go home and repeat the same thing.” 

Begay and classmate Daniell Charley have longer days because of after-school programs.

“It’s our last year, and I want to be more involved with everything at school and what it has to offer,” Charley said.

Nearly half of the students who go to Holbrook live on one of the reservations. Some live so far away from the school that they stay at a dormitory at the school district.

[STATE OF OUR SCHOOLS: The Search for Solutions]

The extensive travel creates unique challenges for the district. It’s not easy to find drivers willing to spend six hours a day on the road. Those long hours translate to about 2,600 miles a day on the buses; that’s more than 400,000 miles a year.

The district has solutions in place to keep its buses running as long as possible. For one thing, it puts newer buses on longer routes. It also is prompt and thorough when it comes to maintenance. Although the district keeps its buses in top condition, they still have a life expectancy of around 12 years.

The operating budget for the buses is roughly $1.4 million annually.


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