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School Finance: Transportation

Pupil Transportation Guide: A Guide for Massachusetts School Administrators

August 1996


Guidelines for Student Transportation Planning and Policy Development for School Administrators


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.


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.


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

Last Updated: August 1, 1996
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