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Decision No. 13,737

Appeal of JEAN H. CORCORAN from action of the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of Port Jervis regarding transportation.

Decision No. 13,737

(February 21, 1997)

Cuddedack & Onofry, Esqs., attorneys for respondent, Robert A. Onofry, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals respondent's refusal to modify the transportation arrangements presently provided for her son. The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner resides within the district with her son, who is a first grade student at a nonpublic school in Pond Eddy, New York. The precise distance from petitioner's residence to her son's school is not set forth in the papers before me, but the parties agree that the distance is less than 15 miles and that petitioner's son is entitled to transportation under the district's current policy.

Petitioner claims that the afternoon bus run from her son's school to home is at least 1 hour and 30 minutes in length. According to petitioner, the trip took 1 hour and 56 minutes on September 4, 1996, and 1 hour and 30 minutes on September 5. No information is provided as to the length of the morning bus run, and that aspect of transportation is not at issue herein.

On September 9, 1996, petitioner filed a written complaint with the district's director of transportation, and met with the district's transportation committee on September 16, 1996. On September 17, respondent, upon the recommendation of the transportation committee, refused to alter the transportation arrangements for petitioner's son.

Petitioner alleges that respondent's transportation policy requires her son to spend excessive time on the afternoon school bus. She also provides some evidence of a medical condition for which her son is being treated, which she claims makes it extremely difficult for him to spend such a long time on the bus.

Respondent generally denies that petitioner is in any way aggrieved, and states categorically that the transportation provided to her son is in compliance with all relevant statutes, rules and regulations pertaining to the transportation of students.

It appears that the school district encompasses approximately 75 square miles, including the entire city of Port Jervis, the Town of Deerpark, and portions of three other towns. The district uses 48 buses each day to transport 2,783 students. Approximately 14 students in addition to petitioner's son attend the same nonpublic school in Pond Eddy. The district has set aside a 15-passenger bus to transport all of these students to the nonpublic school.

Petitioner points out that a group of concerned parents presented other options to the district's transportation committee to decrease the time their children spend on the bus, but the proposal presented with the petition requires the addition of a second vehicle to provide the same transportation now provided with one bus.

Under Education Law '3635, boards of education are required to provide transportation under various circumstances. In general, a city school district is not required to provide transportation, but if it does so, such transportation must be provided in an equal manner to all children in like circumstances (Education Law '3635[1][c]). A board of education has broad discretion to determine how such transportation will be provided (Appeal of Broad, 35 Ed Dept Rep 248; Appeal of Byrne, et al., 34 id. 389; Appeal of Palyo, 33 id. 169; Appeal of Lavin, 32 id. 249). A board of education may consider safety, convenience, efficiency and cost (Appeal of Eats, 29 Ed Dept Rep 481; Matter of Horschel, 24 id. 94). Moreover, it is for the local board of education to balance the overall efficiency and economy of a transportation system against the convenience of individual students (Appeal of Polifka, 31 Ed Dept Rep 61; Appeal of a Handicapped Child, 25 id. 280; Matter of McBennett, 17 id. 404). Determinations made by local boards of education will not be overturned unless they are arbitrary, capricious and without a rational basis (Appeal of Byrne, et al., supra; Appeal of Polifka, supra).

Petitioner has failed to demonstrate that this board of education has acted without any rational basis. I recognize that a bus ride of approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes may seem excessive to a parent. However, prior Commissioners' decisions have refused to intervene in situations with similar or longer commutes (Appeal of Lavin, 32 id. 249; Appeal of Polifka, supra; Appeal of a Handicapped Child, supra; Appeal of Capozza, 25 id. 15; Matter of Rouis, 20 id. 493). There is no legal requirement that a pupil be transported in 90 minutes or less (Appeal of Tomasso, 23 Ed Dept Rep 120). Under the circumstances presented here, including the large geographical area served by the district, I cannot say that respondent's transportation policy is irrational.

I am not unmindful of the claim that petitioner's son is under a doctor's care. However, the very brief note from his doctor indicates only that he is under care for a condition which is normally not permanent, and there is no indication in the record before me that this condition is even expected to be of long duration. Such circumstances do not justify a major realignment of the district's transportation scheme.