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Decision No. 13,751

Appeal of HAROLD and SHEILA HEUSER, on behalf of their children, BERT C. WHIDDEN and TINA M. HEUSER, from action of the Board of Education of the Greenwich Central School District regarding a transportation pickup point.

Decision No. 13,751

(April 1, 1997)

Ferrara, Fiorenza, Larrison, Barrett & Reitz, P.C., attorneys for respondent, Henry F. Sobota, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioners appeal the refusal of the Board of Education of the Greenwich Central School District ("respondent") to move their children's transportation pickup point. The appeal must be dismissed.

Since 1990, petitioners' children, Bert and Tina, have been picked up at the end of their driveway on Bald Mountain Road, and neighboring children were picked up at a different point further up the road. On September 6, 1996, the pickup point for neighboring children was moved to the end of petitioners' driveway. Petitioners contacted Transportation Supervisor, Whitney Colvin, and Superintendent of Schools, Joseph S. Bonita, to express their concerns about the safety of children walking on the road and about their liability for children waiting on their property. Respondent inspected the site and determined that the pickup point at petitioners' driveway was unsafe because it was close to a curve in the road and that two pickup points, as previously provided, were not necessary. Superintendent Bonita moved the stop approximately 200 - 300 feet up Bald Mountain Road, but still adjacent to petitioners' property. Respondent alleges that the new stop is safer and that it is located where no child will have to walk an excessive distance. In his September 9, 1996 letter to Mrs. Heuser notifying her of the new pickup point, Superintendent Bonita also indicated that another reason for the change was a concern for damage to headstones on petitioners' property near the driveway, which she apparently had reported.

Petitioners object to the new location. They maintain that it is unsafe for their children to reach the new pickup point, particularly in winter conditions when Bert and Tina would have to walk on the road near a blind corner. They also object to having other children waiting on their property and have threatened to have them arrested. On September 23, 1996, petitioners expressed their concerns to respondent and asked that their children be picked up at their house. Petitioners further requested that respondent provide them with a Certificate of Additional Insurance if the new bus stop were to continue to be located on petitioners' property. By letter dated September 26, 1996, the district's Business Administrator, Lyn H. Ozdoba, notified petitioners that the pickup point would not be changed. Respondent confirmed this decision by letter dated October 3, 1996. This appeal ensued.

Petitioners request that the two original pickup points be restored and that a Certificate of Additional Insurance be issued to them for any personal injury or property damage that occurs at the bus stop on their property. Petitioners' request for interim relief pending a decision on the merits was denied on October 11, 1996.

Respondent maintains that petitioners are not entitled to door-to-door transportation and that it is the parents' responsibility to ensure that their children get to the pickup point safely. With respect to the neighboring children, respondent asserts that the new stop is safer than the one located at petitioners' driveway and that there is room for children to wait on the shoulder of the road, without trespassing on petitioners' property.

While I am sympathetic to petitioners concerns about their children's safety, there is no basis on the record before me to overturn respondent's decision. A board of education may exercise its discretion when designating pickup and drop-off points, provided that the board uses care in exercising such discretion (Appeal of Krauciunas, 35 Ed Dept Rep 107; Appeal of Pauldine, 35 id. 54; Appeal of Icenogle, 34 id. 406; Appeal of Behan, 34 id. 368). In establishing a pickup point, a board of education must consider and balance considerations of pupil safety and convenience, routing efficiency and costs (Appeal of Krauciunas, supra; Appeal of Pauldine, supra; Appeal of Icenogle, supra; Appeal of Behan, supra).

My review of the record indicates that respondent's determination was neither arbitrary, capricious nor unreasonable. The record demonstrates that respondent investigated petitioners' concerns and ultimately based its determination on student safety, the efficiency of combining two stops, and the convenience of all students assigned to the stop. Petitioners' concern that their children must walk along the road is not, in and of itself, a basis for deeming the current pickup point unsafe, and is characteristic of many pickup points in rural and suburban areas. In a case in which a district considered pupil safety in developing its transportation plan and inspected a challenged site finding no hazard, the Commissioner found no reason to substitute his judgment where a pickup point had limited visibility and where children were required to walk on an unlit roadway with a 55 m.p.h. speed limit (Appeal of Krauciunas, supra). In addition, the courts have held that the safety of children between home and pickup points is the responsibility of parents, not school districts (Pratt v. Robinson, 39 NY2d 554). Therefore, there is no reason for me to substitute my judgment for that of respondent.

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