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Decision No. 13,127

Appeal of LARRY BRASSARD, SR. and LINDA BRASSARD and MICHAEL and CAROL VALENTINE, on behalf of PHILOMENA BRASSARD and LARRY BRASSARD, JR. and CATHERINE VALENTINE, from action of the Board of Education of the Schalmont Central School District regarding transportation.

Decision No. 13,127

(March 3, 1994)

Grasso, Rodriguez, Putorti, Grasso & Zyra, Esqs., attorneys for petitioners, George Conway, Esq., of counsel

Hancock & Estabrook, Esqs., attorneys for respondent, Martha L. Berry, Esq., of counsel

SOBOL, Commissioner.--Petitioners appeal the refusal by the Board of Education of the Schalmont Central School District ("respondent") to change its transportation routes to provide petitioners' children with direct transportation to a nonpublic school. The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioners are the parents of school-aged children who reside in respondent's district and attend a nonpublic school. Respondent provides transportation to nonpublic school students by operating "feeder" buses. The feeder buses collect students destined for different schools and transport them to a central location, Schalmont High School, where the students transfer to another bus to their final destination. Prior to the 1993-94 school year, petitioners' children were picked up after the bus left its central location and was on the way to the nonpublic school. For the 1993-94 school year, respondent modified its transportation schedule. Under the current system, petitioners' children are picked up on the way to the central location. This means that petitioners' children are transported with public high school students and have to wait in the bus while other children are assembled from the different routes for transportation to the nonpublic school.

Petitioners requested that respondent amend its transportation schedule so that their children would be picked up on the way from Schalmont High School to the nonpublic school, just as they were under the prior system. Respondent denied this request on October 15, 1993. This appeal ensued. Petitioners' request for interim relief pending a final determination on the merits of this appeal was denied on November 24, 1993.

Respondent's 1992 policy on "Transportation of Students" provides:

Transportation routes shall be established so that Kindergarten through Grade 5 students ride the bus for no more than 45 minutes and Grades 6-12 students ride the bus for no more than one hour.

Petitioners claim that respondent is violating its transportation policy by using a route that takes 50 minutes or more for their children to arrive at their nonpublic school. However, petitioners fail to provide any proof that the transportation route taken by their children exceeds 50 minutes. Respondent instead asserts that the transportation time is actually 45 minutes or less. In an appeal before the Commissioner of Education, petitioners have the burden of establishing the facts upon which they seek relief (8 NYCRR 275.10; Appeal of Lovascio, 31 Ed Dept Rep 75; Appeal of Singh, 30 id. 284). Petitioners make bare assertions concerning transportation times that are in conflict with respondent's assertions and offer no independent proof that their time tables are accurate. Accordingly, petitioners have not met their burden of proof with regard to this issue.

Education Law '3635 requires a board of education to provide transportation based upon the distance between a student's home and the school they legally attend. However, a board of education has broad discretion to determine the manner in which such transportation will be provided (Appeal of Pronin, 27 Ed Dept Rep 203; Matter of Tomasso, 23 id. 120; Matter of Kelley, 18 id. 507). A board of education must balance considerations of pupil safety and convenience, routing efficiency and cost (Appeal of Cunningham, 28 Ed Dept Rep 10; Appeal of a Handicapped Child, 25 id. 280; Matter of Burke, 24 id. 328). Except in very limited circumstances, a board of education is not required to provide door to door transportation from home to school (Appeal of Lavin, 32 Ed Dept Rep 249).

My review of the record indicates that respondent's policy is the most practical means of providing transportation under the circumstances. Respondent determined that its current route was necessary given changed circumstances. The fact that petitioners' children were previously served by a more direct route does not prohibit respondent from instituting a different route that might be less direct. While it is unfortunate that petitioners' children are no longer being provided a shorter route to the nonpublic school, I find nothing in the record to suggest that respondent's actions constitute an abuse of discretion or that an otherwise reasonable policy has been implemented in an unreasonable fashion (Appeal of Cunningham, supra; Matter of Barnes, et al., 21 id. 594).

I have considered petitioners' other contentions and find them without merit.