The Two-Hour School Commute
During the morning trek to school, the Bay Bridge into San Francisco is red with the glow of brake lights. Imari Keith, who is 17, is dozing in her family’s van while her brother and sister watch a Disney movie. The commute began at 6:20 a.m. It will likely end at 8:15 a.m.
In the past five years, Imari’s family, longtime residents of San Francisco, moved twice in search of an affordable home in a safer neighborhood. “My mom wanted to live in a house where she didn’t have to spend all her money on rent,” Imari says. “What’s the point of being in a house if you can’t have electricity or water?”
With rents in the Bay Area rising almost 40 percent between 2010 and 2014, many have been forced to the region’s outer fringes. In the chaos of moving, kids get pulled from one school to another. Some families — wanting to maintain a sense of stability for their children — use an uncle’s or grandparents’ in-district address and keep their kids’ commutes a secret. Others attend schools that allow students to live in far-flung locales.
Three teen commuters — Imari, Daniel Espinoza, 17, and Tayari Henry, 16 — travel nearly two hours each way to and from school. Their daily routes are a mix of waiting and rushing, and of missing being close to the people and places they grew up with.