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School Finance: Transportation

Pupil Transportation Guide: A Guide for Massachusetts School Administrators

August 1996

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Letter From the Commissioner - Pupil Transportation Guide

Dear Friends:

On numerous occasions, school committees, school administrators, lawmakers, and the general public have requested information concerning pupil transportation services. The manual is intended to aid staff in the local education agencies in providing a safe, efficient, and economical pupil transportation system. It is a compilation of suggested guidelines based on solid research, pertinent statutes and regulations, and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education policies as they relate to pupil transportation.

We will try to keep this document current and complete.

Best wishes for a successful transportation program.

Sincerely,

Robert V. Antonucci
Commissioner of Education
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Guidelines for Student Transportation Planning and Policy Development for School Administrators

Background

State statutes establish the responsibility of the School Committee to provide transportation services for students transported to and from home and school and to and from educational programs. With respect to students being transported, a written policy statement is required to provide the school committee, administrators, school bus contractors, students and parents with uniformly applied guidelines. Such a policy should be widely disseminated and clearly understood by all. This facilitates impartial administration and consistent operation, provides a convenient accessible statement of objectives of the system, and affords a better understanding of the relationship of the transportation operation to the educational system. A written policy statement also provides a framework within which the school committee and administrators can issue operating directives.

Goals

To ensure a successful transportation policy, certain goals must be established. The following points are suggested minimum goals to be used as a basis for your list.

  • Extend equal educational opportunities to all children.
  • Increase opportunities for communities to enrich the school program.
  • Provide the means by which students can travel to school and home under safe and healthful conditions.
  • Contribute to increased safety efficiency and economy in the development and operation of an improved school program.

Need for Policy Statement

It will be noted that these legal responsibilities are stated in rather broad terms. Since many questions often arise whose answers are not contained explicitly in the statutes, school committees must establish detailed policies within the framework of those established at the state and federal levels. Some other reasons for establishing policy are:

  • It eliminates the need to make a decision in recurring situations.
  • It permits consistency in the decisions of the school administrator.
  • It avoids many management problems before they happen.
  • It improves committee-administration relations and maintains stability of relationship.
  • It raises staff morale through uniform and fair treatment.
  • It provides a legal foundation upon which to build a program.
  • It gives citizens an understanding of objectives and schoolactivity.
  • It enables staff members to better understand their work in relationship to total school programs.
  • It differentiates between Committee "Chairperson" and administrative management.

Policies will vary according to local conditions or situations, but there are a few general rules which should be followed. These include:

  • Policies should always be in writing.
  • Policies must be kept up to date with changing conditions and changes in the state law.

The number of policies should be limited. It is not possible to write a policy to cover every situation that might occur. Policies should be subject to review and evaluation at periodic intervals by board members, administrators and members of the faculty.

Policies

In establishing written committee policies, certain considerations should be incorporated into the planning, as a minimum. These include:

  • Specifying the extent of the transportation services to be provided, including students entitled to transportation by law and the conditions, if any, under which it will be provided to students who do not qualify.
  • Describing rules of behavior for all transported students, including the discipline procedures.
  • Designating the person responsible for the enforcement of such rules of behavior.
  • Outlining the procedures for the use of buses for extracurricular activities and by other groups permitted by law.
  • Establishing requirements for the employment of transportation personnel.
  • Establishing policy regarding standees on school buses.
  • Developing policies to conserve the use of energy.
  • Establishing different beginning and closing hours for elementary and high school attendance centers which would permit school buses to make multiple runs.
  • Outlining the availability and use of late buses.
  • Using a larger capacity bus where there is a sufficient number of students without making the riding time too long.
  • Making a careful analysis of all bus routes to reduce deadhead mileage.

Accounting System

It is recommended that each school district have a system of accounting which is utilized to obtain essential data and records. Following is a minimum list of essential information which should be provided by a system of records and reports for school transportation.

  • List of students transported on each bus, with scheduled time for loading and unloading on each trip.
  • Any change of status of any student during the school year.
  • All necessary student information for filing state transportation reports.
  • Monthly and annual record of total mileage of each bus.
  • Record of mileage of each bus on extracurricular activities, field trips and excursions.
  • A grouping of all transportation expenditures in one ledger, in addition to the regular record of all expenditures.
  • Records giving complete information regarding school bus accidents.

Criteria in determining whether or not the program is economical and efficient:

  • Topography of school district
  • Number of multiple runs by buses, length of bus routes and time on a bus
  • Student population density
  • Student capacity of the school bus
  • Ratio between the number of high school and elementary students transported
  • Number of unoccupied seat spaces
  • Number of special routes for kindergarten and special education students

Transportation Policy

General

The purpose of a transportation policy will ensure that each school committee offering student transportation services complies with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts General Laws and Regulations of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Registry of Motor Vehicles pertinent to transportation of students, as well as govern any areas not covered by specific declaration of policy.

Eligibility

All children in grades kindergarten through six who reside more than two miles from the school they are entitled to attend and the nearest school bus stop is more than one mile from their residence and all children residing in regional school districts in grades kindergarten through twelve. Exceptions to this policy may be made when road conditions do not provide for the physical safety of the children and when the health of students make this service essential.

Riding Limits, Routes, and Bus Stops

Bus routes are established under the direction of the superintendent in cooperation with bus contractors so as an authorized bus stop is available within a reasonable walking distance of the home of every student entitled to transportation, and that distance does not exceed one mile.

Bus routes are structured so the total time a student spends on the bus is minimal.

Authorized bus stops are located at convenient intervals in places where students maybe loaded and unloaded, cross highways, and await arrival of buses with the utmost safety allowed by road conditions.

Administration of Program

The superintendent of schools is responsible for execution of transportation policy and regulations adopted to implement the policy.

Transportation contractors must submit a list of bus drivers and substitute drivers to the Superintendent of Schools for approval by the school committee.

Bus contractors are subject to all statutes of Massachusetts governing buses, drivers, inspections, and licensing.

Supervision of Riders

Bus drivers are responsible for the safety of children riding to and from school. Bus drivers have full authority over the bus and its passengers in route to and from school and during loading and unloading.

Requirements of Contents

A copy of the bus route should be placed in each bus prior to the beginning of school. Emergency numbers such as police, school, garage, hospital, etc., must be posted each bus. Drivers are expected to keep their buses clean at all times.

Recommended Bus Rules For Drivers

Discipline

Any violations of the rules and regulations for student behavior on school buses must be reported at the end of each trip to the staff member in charge, who must obtain all pertinent information and report it to the school principal. The report should be forwarded to the school principal no later than the following day of the occurrence of the incident. The report will be returned to the staff member showing the action taken by the principal who in turn will show the bus driver what action has been taken.

Drivers must not remove any child from a bus as a disciplinary measure.

Bus drivers have no authority to appoint students as bus monitors and must not do so. If repeated misbehavior problems arise, the should report each incident to the designated authority.

Suspension of a student from riding the bus must be administered by the proper authority, usually the school principal.

School principals must administer punishment when rule infractions are reported. Reports must be prompt, and punishment should be administered as soon as possible after it has been reported. All punishments must be reported to parents and noted on the copy of the Bus Behavior Report, which is returned and shown to the bus driver.

Recommended Procedures for Accidents

In spite of all precautions, the possibility of accidents cannot be entirely eliminated. Drivers should be trained so, if any accidents do occur, they know how to meet the emergency. The following procedures are suggested to drivers:

  • Stop and turn off the ignition.
  • Keep calm and never lose your temper. Do not argue or try to place the blame for the accident.
  • Set out lanterns, flags, or flares at once. (Reflectors are acceptable)
  • Make students as safe and comfortable as possible, moving them to a safe and comfortable location if necessary.
  • Under no condition allow children to proceed home by begging rides or walking long distances.
  • If necessary, send a responsible student for the type of help needed.
  • Notify school officials and the state, county, or local police.
  • Get license number and other pertinent information about all vehicles involved.
  • Get the names and addresses of all persons involved in the accident and all witnesses.

Recommended Bus Rules For Students

Waiting for the Bus
  • Be on time for the bus but do not arrive at the stop earlier than 10 minutes before the time at which the bus usually arrives.
  • Observe all safety precautions while waiting for the bus:
    • Do not play in the roads
    • If possible, avoid crossing streets
    • Whenever you must cross a street, do so only if you are sure that no moving vehicles are approaching from either direction
    • Do not push, pull, or chase any other students
    • Avoid trespassing on private property and being noisy
  • As your bus approaches, line up at least six feet off the highway, and do not approach the bus until it has stopped and the driver has opened the door. Again, avoid pushing others in the line.
Loading the Bus
  • Get on your bus quickly and be seated at once (unless seats are not available).
  • If seats are not available, proceed toward the rear of the bus, remain standing in the middle aisle, and grasp a seat bar firmly before the bus begins to move.
  • Listen carefully and obey any directions issued by the driver.
Unloading the Bus
  • Do not leave your seat until the bus has come to a complete stop and the driver has opened the door.
  • Again, obey any directions issued by the driver.
  • Leave the bus quickly but in a courteous manner without pushing other students.
  • If you must cross a street as leave the school bus, be sure to walk in front of the bus (never in back) at a distance of at least 12 feet away from the bus. If you are too close to the front of the bus, the driver will not be able to see you, and a serious accident could occur.
  • Again, be sure to observe all safety precautions as you travel from your bus stop to your home.
  • Violation of the bus rules may result in loss of bus privileges.

School Transportation Program Evaluation

To ensure that your school transportation program is operating efficiently, it is recommended that an assessment and evaluation of the program is done on a regularly basis. The following is a minimum list of essential information which can be used in designing an evaluation guide.

  1. School Committee Policy

    The school committee has adopted specific policies regarding student transportation. All policies are in writing form and include but are not limited to the following:

    • The extent of the transportation services to be provided as stated by law and the conditions, if any, under which it will be provided to students who do not qualify.
    • An outline of procedures for the use of buses for extra curricular activities and by other groups permitted by law.
    • A description of rules of behavior for all bus drivers and students, including discipline procedures.
    • Operating rules for bus drivers.

  2. Safety Education

    • A program has been developed for teaching children to become safe bus passengers which includes:
      • Classroom instruction
      • Assembly programs
      • Demonstration and practice on the bus
      • Emergency evacuation drills
      • A training program has been established for members of the student safety patrol.

  3. Transportation Records

    A separate transportation accounting system is in place and maintained which includes the following:

    • Cost analysis for the operation of each bus on an annual basis.
    • Records which contain:
      • original cost and date of purchase
      • total mileage and miles operated per day on regular routes
      • number of students transported on regular routes
      • cost of gasoline, oil, tires, tubes, labor, parts and insurance (buses/garages)
      • rents paid
      • operating expenses of the bus garage (fuel, electricity, water, telephone, uniforms, etc.
      • dates worked and wages paid to drivers
      • administrative costs
    • Records are kept for instructional and other non-route trips such as number of miles per trip, cost of gasoline, oil, wages for drivers and other operating costs
    • .
    • A complete inventory of supplies and repair parts is made at least once year.
    • Specific information on all school bus accidents is maintained as detailed as possible.

  4. Bus Routes

    • An up to date map in a scale large enough to be functional is maintained, showing the following information:
      • Location of all roads
      • Type of roads (gravel, dirt, paved, etc.)
      • Location of schools
      • Location of students, indicating grade level
      • Route of each bus
      • Location of all railroad crossings
      • Location and nature of all other route hazards
    • Children are picked up and discharged only at designated stops.
    • Bus stops located only where there is adequate clear vision in each direction
    • A definite time schedule showing the time the bus can be expected at each bus stop has been established and is posted in each bus.
    • Traffic patterns for approaching, parking on and leaving school grounds are established.
    • Emergency routes are established to be used in case of road restrictions.
    • Riding time for the passengers does not exceed a reasonable amount of time.

  5. Procedures

    • There is a definite procedure for handling requests for the use of buses for instruction and activity trips.
    • Requests for these trips in writing.
    • There is a direct and easy method for drivers to report disciplinary problems.

  6. Parents and Students

    • Parents are informed of all policies pertaining to the transportation program.
    • A copy of the bus time schedule is sent home prior to the opening of school.
    • Rules and regulations for student conduct are specific and understandable; they are sent to the home of each child who is transported.

  7. Bus Driver

    • Rules and regulations regarding their duties and responsibilities are given to the drivers in written form as in a driver's handbook.
    • Qualifications - physical, mental and moral - have been established for bus drivers.
    • There is a definite program for training school bus drivers which includes both classroom instruction and behind-the-wheel practice.
    • Conferences and/or safety meetings for the drivers are held at regular intervals.
    • Substitute drivers meet the same requirements as regular drivers.

  8. Vehicles

    • All vehicles used for transporting students meet the minimum standards for construction of school buses as required by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
    • Vehicles are purchased only after requesting bids.
    • A written set of specifications describing the equipment to be purchased is furnished to the bidders.
    • When possible, purchases of new buses are made in time to ensure delivery before the next school term begins.
    • Spare buses are available and can easily be assigned to a bus route in case of need.
    • The capacity rating of the spare buses are at least the equivalent of the largest buses used on the regular routes.

  9. Maintenance

    • School officials make all the necessary provisions for carrying out a preventative maintenance program.
    • The driver performs a pre-trip inspection of his bus and reports in writing any defects.
    • Each bus is inspected regularly by a mechanic for detecting mechanical defects, and immediate repairs are made when defects are found.
    • The buses are kept clean inside and out.
    • Maintenance records are maintained, showing maintenance and repair work done for each bus.

  10. Garage

    • Garage or other shelter is provided with heat if it is to be used for repair.
    • Washing facilities are available, so that buses can be kept clean.
    • The garage is equipped with a telephone.

  11. Contracts

    • Transportation contracts are in full compliance with all state and federal statutes.
    • Transportation contracts are awarded only after requesting bids in accordance with the law.
    • A written set of specifications describing all aspects of the transportation service to be provided is furnished to prospective bidders.
    • When possible, awarding of transportation contracts is made in time to assure delivery before the next school term begins.

  12. Possible Steps To Help Reduce Transportation Costs

    • Establishing different beginning and closing hours for elementary and high schools which would permit school buses to make multiple runs.
    • Using a larger capacity bus where there is a sufficient number of students without making the riding time excessive.
    • Make a careful analysis of all bus routes to reduce deadhead mileage.
    • Establishing a definite replacement program for the purchasing of new buses.
    • Trading in buses when maintenance and operating costs become excessive.
    • Providing for a preventative maintenance program for the buses. It is less costly to prevent failure of the vehicle or any of its parts than to make repairs after a breakdown has occurred.
    • Providing a formalized course of instruction for school bus drivers pertaining to proper operation of a school bus.
    • Installing gasoline storage tank and pump if the size of the fleet is large enough to warrant purchasing of gas in large quantities.

Measurable Distances

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education policy regarding the "measurable distances" provisions set forth in M.G.L. c.71, s. 68, is as follows:

  1. Measurable Distances
    The distance between a pupil's residence and the school the pupil is entitled to attend or the nearest school bus stop shall be measured from "portal to portal" over a commonly traveled route.
  2. Portal to portal shall mean the sidewalk or public way in front or nearest to a pupil's home of residence to the entrance way of the school building the public is attending. Where there is more than one entrance way to the school building either entrance way may be used for measuring distances if both of the entrances are ordinarily accessible.
  3. Commonly traveled route shall mean a sidewalk or public way which, in the ordinary course, is open and accessible to pedestrian traffic.

The above definition of a "commonly traveled route" shall be used to determine and verify numbers of pupils being transported at least 2 miles from school, including instances where a school committee elects to transport pupils, because of hazardous/safety conditions, over a route other than a "commonly traveled route" as defined in our policy on "measurable distances." A public way is considered not open and accessible when a state (excluding Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) or federal agency has officially excluded school transportation vehicles from using the route. School transportation vehicles are not required to travel over nonpublic ways (c.90). A public way is adopted and registered as such in the city or town (c.81).

Appeals to Department

If the distance between a child's residence and the school the child is entitled to attend or the nearest school bus stop exceeds the distances set forth in M.G.L. c.71, s.68, and a school committee fails to provide transportation within two weeks after a parent or guardian has submitted a written request for such transportation, the parent or guardian may appeal to the Department in the following manner:

  1. Submission of Written Appeal
    A written appeal shall be sent to the Director of the School Governance, Environment and Structural Support Services, Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148. The appeal shall state the measurable distances involved, the reasons the parent or guardian is requesting transportation and reasons, if any, that the school committee has failed to provide the requested transportation. Copies of all written correspondence between the parent or guardian and the school committee which has pertinence to the appeal shall be included with the appeal request.

  2. Initiation of Investigation
    Upon receipt of such a written appeal from a parent or guardian, the Department may investigate the routes and measurable distances involved, the reasons the school committee has failed to provide transportation, whether the school committee has failed to provide transportation to other children similarly situated, and other relevant matters. Routes and measurable distances will be measured in accordance M.G.L. c.71, s.68.

  3. Written Decision
    Upon completion of the Department's investigation, if it is determined that the measurable distance exceeds the distances set forth in the statute, the Department may require a school committee to furnish transportation for part or all of such measurable distance. The Department's decision shall be in writing and may be enforced through appropriate legal action.

Pupil Transportation Reimbursement

The following pupil transportation scheduling and routing examples are subject to state reimbursement and should be reviewed for safe, efficient and economical school transportation planning.

  1. Student is transported to school or regional school district of attendance.
    Distance from residence to school or regional school district of attendance in excess of one and one-half miles in one direction and return is reimbursable under the provisions of Chapter 71, Sections 7A, 7B, 16C or Chapter 71A, Section 8.
     1-1/2 miles or more 
    Residence------------- >
    <-------------
    School of Attendence
     1-1/2 miles or more 

  2. Student is transported from home school (A) located in school district, then to another school (B) located in the school district, and after the completion of an instructional program is returned to school (A). From school (A) the student is transported home.
    1. Distance from home school (A) in excess of 1-1/2 miles one direction and home again is reimbursed under the provisions of Chapter 71, Sections 7A, 7B, 16C or Chapter 74, Section 8A.
    2. Any distance from school (A) to school (B) and return is a shuttle service and subject to reimbursement under the provisions of Chapter 70 as an extension of the pupil's educational program.
     1-1/2 miles or more any distance 
    Residence---------- >
    < ----------
    School A---------- >
    < ----------
    School B
     1-1/2 miles or more any distance 

  3. Student is transported from home to school (A) located in the school district, then to another school (B) located in the school district and finally from school (B) to home.
    1. Distance in excess of 1-1/2 miles one direction from home to school (A) is reimbursable and the distance in excess of 1-1/2 miles one direction from school (B) to home is reimbursable under the provisions of Chapter 71, Sections 7A, 7B, 16C or Chapter 74, Section 8A.
    2. Any distance from school (A) to school (B) is a shuttle service and subject to reimbursement under the provisions of Chapter 70 as an extension of the pupil's educational program.
     1-1/2 miles or more any distance 
    Residence------------ >School A------------ >School B
     1-1/2 miles or more   

  4. Student is transported to a transfer point or designated marshalling area located in a district to meet other school pupils to be transported to schools of attendance. This process is often repeated to return pupils home upon the completion of the school day.

    The distance in excess of 1-1/2 miles one direction from home to school and return is reimbursable under the provisions of Chapter 71, Sections 7A, 7B, 16C or Chapter 74, Section 8A.

     residence to school 1-1/2 miles or more 
    Residence----------- >School A
     residence to school 1-1/2 miles or more 
    ResidenceFeeder AreaSchool B
     residence to school 1-1/2 miles or more  
    Residence----------- >School C

Day Care Centers - Pupil Transportation

  1. Student walks one mile to school of attendance and is transported in excess of 1½ miles one direction from school of attendance to an Office For Children approved day care center.

    The walking distance from residence to school of attendance is not a reimbursable distance but the distance from school of attendance and Office For Children approved day care center is reimbursable under the provisions of Chapter 71, Sections 7A 0r 16C.
     1 mile or less
    Residence----------- >School of Attendance------ > Approved Day Care
     1-1/2 miles or more

  2. Student transported in excess of 1-1/2 mile one direction from home to school of attendance and is transported in excess of 1-1/2 miles one direction to an Office For Children approved day care center.

    The distance from home to school and to Office For Children approved day care center is reimbursable under the provisions of Chapter 71, Sections 7A or 16C.
     1 mile or more
    Residence----------- >School of Attendance------ > Approved Day Care
     1-1/2 miles or more

  3. Student is located at an Office For Children approved day care center which is in excess of 1-1/2 miles from school of attendance and is transported to school of attendance and returned to the same day care center at the conclusion of the school day.

    The distance to and from the school of attendance and Office For Children approved day care center is reimbursable under the provisions of Chapter 71, Sections 7A or 16C.
     1-1/2 miles or more 
    Day Care Center--------- >
    < ----------
    School of Attendance
     1-1/2 miles or more 

Additional Reimbursement Considerations

  1. A Special Education student transported as required by an educational plan would be subject to reimbursement under the provisions of Chapter 71B, Section 14, as amended. There are no mileage limits.
  2. A Transitional/Bilingual Education student transported in excess of 1-1/2 miles one direction would be subject to reimbursement under the provisions of Chapter 71A, Section B, as amended.
  3. A pupil transported in excess of 1-1/2 miles one direction to an approved Occupational Education day program located in another town one direction shall be reimbursed under the provisions of Chapter 74, Section 8A.
  4. A student who is transported to another city, town, or regional school district in order to reduce or eliminate racial balance or racial isolation would be subject to reimbursement under the provisions of Chapter 71, Section 37D. There are no mileage requirements.


Last Updated: August 1, 1996
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