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Decision No. 13,360

Appeal of NEDRA FRASIER, on behalf of KRISTIE FRASIER, from action of the Board of Education of the North Warren Central School District regarding transportation.

Decision No. 13,360

(February 14, 1995)

Judge & Duffy, Esqs., attorneys for respondent, Marcia A. Duffy, Esq., of counsel

SOBOL, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals respondent's transportation services provided to her daughter, Kristie. The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner and Kristie are residents of the North Warren Central School District, and Kristie attends the Mountainside Academy ("Mountainside"), a nonpublic school. The record indicates that respondent arranged for students to be picked up at their homes each morning and transported to the district's elementary school. Students attending Mountainside are then transported to that school and arrive at approximately 8:20 a.m. Mountainside commences classes at 8:30 a.m.

Dismissal times for respondent's schools are: elementary school, 2:25 p.m., high school, 2:30 p.m. and middle school, 2:55 p.m. Dismissal time at Mountainside is 3:20 p.m. In transporting Mountainside students home, a district bus brings the students to various drop-off points. This bus drops off Mountainside students directly at their homes if they live on the route the bus travels to the drop-off points.

The record indicates that petitioner waited until September 1994 before requesting transportation for Kristie to the Mountainside Academy for the 1994-95 school year. Despite the lateness of this request, respondent agreed to provide a measure of transportation for Kristie. When transporting Kristie home in the afternoon, a district bus drops her off at the drop-off point closest to her home. Petitioner must then drive approximately five miles to that location to pick up her daughter.

Petitioner contends that respondent must transport Kristie to her home in the afternoon. Respondent contends that the transportation it provides Kristie is reasonable and that to grant petitioner's request would require it to incur considerable additional expense.

Education Law '3635(1)(a) provides:

... transportation shall be provided for all children attending grades kindergarten through eight who live more than two miles from the school which they legally attend and for all children attending grades nine through twelve who live more than three miles from the school which they legally attend and shall be provided for each such child up to a distance of fifteen miles,...

That statute further requires that a request 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. The deadline is to enable school districts to budget funds and make the arrangements necessary to provide transportation in a reasonable and economical manner (Appeal of McNair, 33 Ed Dept Rep 419). 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 Nolan, 32 Ed Dept Rep 352; Appeal of Rugar, 28 id. 159). It is the board of education's responsibility to determine in the first instance whether a parent has offered a reasonable explanation for submitting a late request (Appeal of Rugar, supra). The board's determination will not be set aside unless it constitutes an abuse of discretion (Appeal of Block, 28 Ed Dept Rep 308; Matter of Wybinow, 22 id. 390). Even in the absence of a reasonable explanation for 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 Nolan, supra; Appeal of Rugar, supra).

In this case, petitioner offers no excuse for her late transportation request. The record also supports respondent's assertions that it cannot provide transportation closer to petitioner's home in the afternoon under existing arrangements at no additional cost. Respondent has submitted affidavits from its superintendent and bus dispatcher which detail the district's bus routing schedule. Those affidavits indicate that, to grant petitioner's request, respondent would be required to create an additional bus route using an additional bus and driver.

Based on the foregoing, respondent has not abused its discretion in denying petitioner's request for transportation beyond what it has provided.