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Decision No. 16,108

Appeal of GARY and CHERYL GUARNERI, on behalf of their daughter ANASTACIA, from action of the Board of Education of the Shoreham-Wading River Central School District regarding transportation.

Decision No. 16,108

(July 27, 2010)

Guercio & Guercio, LLP, attorneys for respondent, Lisa L. Hutchinson, Esq., of counsel

STEINER, Commissioner.--Petitioners appeal the determination of the Board of Education of the Shoreham-Wading River Central School District ("respondent") denying their daughter, Anastacia, transportation to a nonpublic school for the 2009-2010 school year.  The appeal must be dismissed.

Anastacia attends Our Lady Queen of Apostles School in Center Moriches.  On August 25, 2009, petitioners contacted the First Student Bus Company to confirm their daughter’s transportation services for the 2009-2010 school year and were notified that no services were scheduled for her.  Upon contacting the district, petitioners were notified that respondent never received a transportation request for Anastacia.  By letter dated August 27, 2009, petitioners requested transportation for their daughter, which was denied.  This appeal ensued.  Petitioners’ request for interim relief was denied on September 25, 2009.

Petitioners claim that they completed a transportation form provided by Our Lady Queen of Apostles in March 2009 and mailed it to the address listed, which was for the William Floyd Union Free School District (“William Floyd”).  They argue that they submitted the transportation request form in a timely manner and, as such, transportation should be reinstated for their daughter.

Respondent maintains that petitioners failed to submit the transportation request form prior to the April 1 statutory deadline.  Respondent further asserts that petitioners’ request should be denied as the district would occur additional costs if petitioners’ late transportation request were granted.

The appeal must be dismissed as moot.  The Commissioner will only decide matters in actual controversy and will not render a decision on a state of facts which no longer exist or which subsequent events have laid to rest (Appeal of Tine, 46 Ed Dept Rep 579, Decision No. 15,600; Appeal of N.C., 46 id. 358, Decision No. 15,532; Appeal of Lombardo, 46 id. 282, Decision No. 15,508).  Petitioners’ transportation request is for the 2009-2010 school year.  Since that school year has ended, the appeal is moot.

Even if the appeal were not dismissed on procedural grounds it would be dismissed on the merits.  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). 

Petitioners claim that they timely submitted a transportation request and that an incorrect mailing address appeared on the request form they received from their private school.  Respondent has provided affidavits from district staff attesting that petitioner Cheryl Guarneri originally admitted to district staff that she forgot to submit the transportation request to the district but that petitioners later claimed that they submitted the form in a timely manner to an incorrect address.  Respondent asserts that they contacted William Floyd, whose address incorrectly appeared on the form provided by petitioners’ nonpublic school.  William Floyd confirmed that a transportation request was not received for petitioners’ daughter, and stated that if one had been received, the form would have been forwarded to respondent.  Respondent further demonstrates ample notice to the community of the April 1 transportation deadline policy.  As such, I find that petitioners have failed to establish that they in fact submitted the transportation form by the April 1 deadline and have failed to demonstrate a reasonable excuse for filing a late transportation request.

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).

Here, the affidavit of respondent's Assistant Superintendent for Business indicates that the district would incur an additional cost of $42,000 for Anastacia’s transportation.  Accordingly, I conclude that respondent did not abuse its discretion in denying petitioners’ late transportation request.

THE APPEAL IS DISMISSED.

END OF FILE.