It’s back to school time in Fairfield, and yesterday was the first day of school for public school students. The Fairfield public school system boasts eleven elementary schools, three middle schools and two high schools. Thousands of local children and teens need to get to class on time, and that means plenty of walking, biking, driving and busing all around town.

This photo shows children taking the “bus” to Dwight Elementary School in Fairfield in 1919, before the automobile became popular. Just like many parents today, this photograph includes several adult family members who took the time to see off their youngsters as they headed to school. Because the bus was open to the elements, the children were dressed in warm coats and hats. Today’s students are often seen waiting for their (heated) school buses in the dead of winter in shorts with no jackets at all.

The transportation aspect of running a school system is always a challenge, and in Fairfield today the bus routes are a well-oiled machine. High schoolers get picked up first, with classes starting at 7:30am. Next, the middle school students are taken to their respective schools. Finally, elementary school children board the buses and arrive at school in time for the morning bell.

In the early years of education, children got to school on their own, walking, riding bicycles or being transported on farm wagons. In 1886 Wayne Works made horse-drawn carriages in Indiana. These “school hacks” (similar to the one pictured here) were used in some parts of the country until the invention of the motorized vehicle. Later, early motorized school buses were much like these “school hacks,” with students sitting along the walls of the bus, facing outward with little protection from the weather.

In the 1930s school buses started to become more standardized, and in 1939 a conference was held in New York to develop school bus standards. The conference was attended by transportation officials from every state in the nation. One of the standards that was agreed-upon was the attention-grabbing “national school bus glossy yellow” color that still covers school buses today.

Best of luck in the coming school year to all Fairfield students, teachers and parents!

About the Fairfield Museum and History Center

The Fairfield Museum is a dynamic non-profit museum, library, cultural arts and educational organization founded in 1903 that provides families in Fairfield County and beyond with a wide array of exhibits and educational programs that teach regional history, celebrate a shared heritage, and prepare students and adults to be more active participants in their community to plan for a better future. Located at 370 Beach Road, the Museum is open seven days a week, 10am-4pm. Members of the Museum and children under 5 are free. For more information, call 203-259-1598 or visit Fairfieldhistory.org. The Fairfield Museum relies on funding from individuals, corporations and foundations. The Museum is especially grateful for leadership support from the State of Connecticut, Town of Fairfield and Fairfield County’s Community Foundation