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Decision No. 13,612

Appeal of NEDRA M. FRASIER, on behalf of her daughter, KRISTIE LEIGH FRASIER, from action of the Board of Education of the North Warren Central School District relating to transportation.

Decision No. 13,612

(May 24, 1996)

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

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the refusal of the Board of Education of the North Warren Central School District ("respondent") to provide afternoon transportation for her daughter, Kristie, from the nonpublic school which she attends to her home. The appeal must be sustained.

Petitioner and her daughter, Kristie, are residents of the North Warren Central School District ("district"). Kristie attends the Mountainside Christian Academy ("Mountainside"), a nonpublic school located within 15 miles of petitioner's home.

Mountainside commences its school day at 8:35 a.m. and dismisses students at 3:20 p.m. Approximately half of the students who are bused to Mountainside are transported by the district, while the other half are transported by the Schroon Lake Central School District.

The district has three separate school buildings, each of which is located in a different town. The elementary school, in Brant Lake, commences its school day at 7:55 a.m. and dismisses students at 2:30 p.m. The middle school, in Pottersville, commences its day at 8:15 a.m. and dismisses students at 2:50 p.m. The high school, in Chestertown, commences its day at 8:15 a.m. and dismisses students at 2:30 p.m.

In the morning, the district transports all students to the elementary school in Brant Lake and from there, the district transports the middle school, high school and Mountainside students to their respective schools. In the afternoon, the district transports the elementary and high school students to the middle school. The buses leave the middle school at 3:00 p.m. to disburse the students throughout the district. Because of Mountainside's later release time, the Mountainside students are not included in this afternoon transportation schedule.

Instead of providing school-to-home transportation for all Mountainside students, the district provides afternoon transportation from Mountainside to four separate drop-off points within the district. Specifically, district bus number 32 ("Bus 32") picks up the Mountainside students at 3:25 p.m, after their 3:20 p.m. release. Bus 32 then travels south on Route 9 to the middle school, the first drop-off point. From there, Bus 32 travels to the elementary school, the second drop-off point. Bus 32 continues to the high school, the third drop-off point, and then to the bus garage, the final drop-off point. During this trip, Bus 32 drops off students along the way who live on the bus route. Because she does not live on the bus route, petitioner must drive a distance of 5 miles one way to pick up Kristie from the closest drop-off point.

On or about March 1, 1995, petitioner requested that the district provide transportation both to and from Mountainside to petitioner's home. Although the district agreed to provide transportation from petitioner's home to Mountainside in the morning, the district refused to provide transportation from Mountainside to petitioner's home in the afternoon.

In an effort to accommodate petitioner's request, on May 16, 1995, the district conducted a trial bus run whereby all Mountainside students were delivered to their homes in the afternoon. This trial used two district buses. As usual, Bus 32 picked up the Mountainside students at 3:25 p.m. From there, Bus 32 dropped off all Mountainside students in the Schroon Lake area before arriving at the middle school, in Pottersville, at 3:54 p.m. At the middle school, some of the Mountainside students boarded the district's late bus, which had to wait an extra half hour for Bus 32. The late bus then left the middle school and transported the Mountainside students to their respective homes in the Brant Lake area. From the middle school, Bus 32 transported the remaining Mountainside students to their respective homes in the Chestertown area. In this trial run, the late bus returned to the bus garage at 4:55 p.m., 45 minutes later than usual, and Bus 32 returned to the bus garage at 4:48 p.m., 50 minutes later than usual.

On June 8, 1995, the district's superintendent sent a letter to the headmaster of Mountainside asking him to consider modifying Mountainside's dismissal time to better accommodate the district. On July 10, 1995, respondent denied petitioner's request based on the trial bus run and on Mountainside's refusal to discuss a modification of its dismissal time. Thereafter, on July 26, 1995, Mountainside's headmaster sent a letter to the superintendent in which he stated that the start of Mountainside's school day was dependent upon bus arrivals from the North Warren and Schroon Lake central school districts. He further stated that the release time could not be changed because it would not allow enough time in the school day to adequately educate the Mountainside students.

Petitioner maintains that respondent's refusal to transport her daughter from Mountainside to her home violates Education Law '3635. Petitioner requests that I order respondent to make new provisions for transportation from Mountainside to her home in the afternoon. Respondent maintains that it has not abused its discretion in denying petitioner's request. Respondent further maintains that its existing transportation arrangement is reasonable and economical. Finally, respondent argues that Mountainside has refused to cooperate with the district to better accommodate the Mountainside students.

The Education Law does not require a board of education to transport children attending nonpublic schools in all circumstances. Public and nonpublic school authorities have an obligation to cooperate in a reasonable manner in the scheduling of classes and transportation (Appeal of Willer, 35 Ed Dept Rep 389; Appeal of Cornerstone Christian School, et al., 30 id. 452; Appeal of Hacker, 28 id. 141; Appeal of Stickley, 27 id. 328; Matter of Lavelle, 24 id. 16). Nonpublic schools are not free of the obligation to cooperate in the hours of opening and closing, and there have been some instances in which a failure to cooperate and the adoption of unreasonable or erratic schedules have been held to relieve the public school authorities of the responsibility for arranging transportation to meet those schedules (Matter of Berger, 22 Ed Dept Rep 443; Matter of Hamilton, 21 id. 30; Matter of Kinney, 7 id. 55; Matter of Whitewell, et al., 5 id. 109; Matter of Kasten, 2 id. 135).

There is no indication in this record, however, that either Mountainside's starting time of 8:35 a.m., or the 3:25 p.m. closing time, is unreasonable or varies substantially with the public school schedule (see, Appeal of Jeffers, 26 Ed Dept Rep 408). In fact, the record indicates that Mountainside begins its day at 8:35 a.m. to accommodate the North Warren and Schroon Lake Central School District schedules. Moreover, Mountainside's dismissal time is only 30 minutes later than the district's middle school. Furthermore, Mountainside's dismissal time appears to fit within the Schroon Lake Central School District's transportation schedule. Respondent argues that it would have to duplicate existing bus runs and incur additional expense to provide school-to-home transportation for all Mountainside students in the afternoon. Although considerations of economy cannot be ignored (Appeal of Post, 33 Ed Dept Rep 151; Appeal of Stickley, 27 id. 328), a board of education may not be influenced by economic considerations to the point of failing to provide transportation which is reasonable (Matter of Littenstein, et al., 23 Ed Dept Rep 256).

In this case, it appears that respondent can accommodate petitioner's request with only a slight modification to its existing schedule by using the district's late bus. This modification would only require the late bus to wait an additional 30 minutes before leaving the district's middle school. This arrangement would apparently allow the district to provide transportation at the lowest cost consistent with its obligation to provide transportation.


IT IS ORDERED that respondent provide transportation for petitioner's daughter from the nonpublic school which she attends to her home following the conclusion of her school day.