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Decision No. 15,881

Appeal of MIGUEL MENDIOLAZA, on behalf of his daughters MICHELLE and CHRISTINE, from action of the Sewanhaka Central High School District regarding transportation.

Decision No. 15,881

(March 2, 2009)

Douglas E. Libby, Esq., attorney for respondent, Bernadette Gallagher-Gaffney, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the decision of the Sewanhaka Central High School District (“respondent”) denying transportation of his daughters, Michelle and Christine, to a nonpublic school, St. Peter of Alcantara (“St. Peter’s”).  The appeal must be dismissed.

During the 2007-2008 school year, Michelle and Christine attended St. Peter’s and received transportation from respondent.  On June 4, 2008, petitioner requested transportation to St. Peter’s for the 2008-2009 school year.  Respondent denied petitioner’s request on the grounds that it was untimely and would impose additional costs on the district.  This appeal ensued.

Petitioner contends that he did not receive written notice of the April 1 deadline, and asks that his delay be excused.

Respondent contends that its decision to deny transportation was reasonable because petitioner’s application was untimely and there was no reasonable excuse for the delay.  Further, respondent maintains that no other district students attend St. Peter’s and the requested transportation would result in additional costs to the district.

The Commissioner of Education will uphold a district’s transportation determination unless it is arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable or an abuse of discretion (Appeal of Morgan, 46 Ed Dept Rep 474, Decision No. 15,568; Appeal of Girsdansky, 46 id. 105, Decision No. 15,455).

Education Law §3635(2) requires that an application for transportation to a nonpublic school must be submitted no later than the first day of April preceding the school year for which transportation is requested or, if the parents or guardian of a child did not reside in the district on April 1, within 30 days after establishing residency in the district.  The purpose of this deadline is to enable school districts to budget funds and make necessary arrangements to provide transportation reasonably and economically  (Appeal of Capeling, 46 Ed Dept Rep 400, Decision No. 15,545; Appeal of Ghaffar, 46 id. 332; Decision No. 15,524; Appeal of Delaney, 46 id. 253, Decision No. 15,498).  However, a district may not reject a late request for transportation if there is a reasonable explanation for the delay (Education Law §3635[2]; Appeal of Capeling, 46 Ed Dept Rep 400, Decision No. 15,545).  In the first instance, it is the responsibility of the board of education to determine whether a parent has offered a reasonable explanation for submitting a late request (Appeal of Ghaffar, 46 Ed Dept Rep 332; Decision No. 15,524; Appeal of Delaney, 46 id. 253, Decision No. 15,498).  The board’s determination will not be set aside unless it constitutes an abuse of discretion (Appeal of Capeling, 46 Ed Dept Rep 400, Decision No. 15,545; Appeal of Ghaffar, 46 id. 332; Decision No. 15,524; Appeal of Delaney, 46 id. 253, Decision No. 15,498).

Petitioner claims that he did not receive written notice of the deadline from St. Peter’s and maintains that his delay should be excused.  A board of education need not accept ignorance of the April 1 deadline as a reasonable excuse for failure to file a timely transportation request (Appeal of Ghaffar, 46 id. 332; Decision No. 15,524; Appeal of Delaney, 46 id. 253, Decision No. 15,498; Appeal of Thomas, 45 id. 528, Decision No. 15,405).  Furthermore, respondent argues that petitioner should have known of the submission deadline given that he timely submitted an application for the preceeding year and because respondent’s application includes the April 1 deadline on its face.  The form also indicates that applications must be submitted each year.  In addition, respondent published a news release that notified parents of the submission deadline.  I therefore cannot conclude that respondent abused its discretion by rejecting petitioner’s excuse.

Even absent a reasonable explanation for the delay, a late transportation request must be granted if the requested transportation can be provided under existing transportation arrangements at no additional cost to the district (Appeal of Meyerson, 46 Ed Dept Rep 421, Decision No. 15,552; Appeal of Capeling, 46 id. 400, Decision No. 15,545; Appeal of Ghaffar, 46 id. 332, Decision No. 15,524).  However, where a late transportation request would result in additional cost, such transportation request may be denied.  The Commissioner has consistently sustained denials of untimely applications for transportation where the transportation requested would impose additional costs upon the school district (Appeal of Capeling, 46 Ed Dept Rep 400, Decision No. 15,545; Appeal of Ghaffar, 46 id. 332, Decision No. 15,524; Appeal of Vasilakos, 46 id. 129, Decision No. 15,463).  In this case, no other district students attend St. Peter’s and, according to respondent, the district would incur at least $17,812.60 in additional expense to provide the requested transportation.  Therefore, respondent’s decision to deny transportation was reasonable and rational.

THE APPEAL IS DISMISSED.

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