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Decision No. 14,132

Appeal of PHILIP and JOYCE PRICE, on behalf of PHILIP and SARAH PRICE, from action of the Board of Education of the Sherburne-Earlville Central School District regarding transportation.

Decision No. 14,132

(May 19, 1999)

Hogan & Sarzynski, LLP, attorneys for respondent, John P. Lynch, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioners appeal the decision of the Board of Education of the Sherburne-Earlville Central School District ("respondent") to change the transportation pick-up point for their children. The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioners and their two school-age children reside at 593 Collins Hill Road, Sherburne, in respondent's district. On July 14, 1998, respondent adopted a new transportation policy. Section II of the policy states: "Bus routes will be determined considering State regulations, economy, and safety. Students in kindergarten through grade 12 may be required to walk up to one-half (.5) mile to school or to a designated bus stop."

Prior to the adoption of this policy, petitioners' child (at that time, petitioners had only one school-age child) was picked up by the school bus at the end of petitioners' driveway. Following adoption of the policy, respondent designated a new pick-up point for petitioners' children along East Hill Road. Petitioners' residence on Collins Hill Road is located approximately one hundred (100) feet to the west of the intersection of East Hill Road. Both Collins Hill and East Hill are rural roads.

By letter dated August 26, 1998, respondent's superintendent notified petitioners of the change in the district's transportation policy. Specifically, this change required petitioners' children to cross the street and walk approximately one hundred (100) feet from petitioners' home to the bus stop. By letter dated September 2, 1998, petitioners informed the superintendent that they believed the change in transportation policy created several safety risks for their children. On September 8, 1998, petitioners appeared before respondent board to discuss their concerns regarding the new pick-up point. By letter dated September 14, 1998, respondent's transportation director informed petitioners that respondent's Transportation Grievance Committee ("Committee") had reviewed petitioners' request to alter the pick-up point and had denied the request because the Committee "found no extenuating circumstances that would justify the requested change."

On September 29, 1998, petitioners wrote to the president of respondent board requesting a written response from respondent regarding petitioners' request. By letter dated October 7, the transportation director again advised petitioners that the Committee had reviewed petitioners' request and had found no extenuating circumstances that would justify the requested change.

By letter dated October 19, 1998, petitioners wrote to the transportation director to reiterate their safety concerns regarding the changed pick-up point; to specify that they sought to have the end of their driveway restored as the pick-up point for their children; and to request a response from respondent. By letter dated October 21, 1998, the president of respondent board informed petitioners that the board discussed petitioners' request at its October 13 meeting, and that they supported the determination denying the request. Petitioners commenced this appeal on November 17, 1998.

Petitioners contend that the new pick-up point requires their children to cross a busy intersection, subjects them to the elements, places them in the way of commuter traffic, subjects them to the possibility of abduction and, in general, places them in harm's way. No affidavits or other evidence is offered to support their claims. Petitioners seek the restoration of their children's former pick-up point, at the end of petitioners' driveway.

Respondent contends that the appeal should be dismissed as untimely. Respondent also contends that its decision to change the pick-up point was based upon a thorough review of the facts and that the pick-up point is, in fact, safe for children. In support of its answer, respondent submits an affidavit from its transportation director.

Initially, I will address the procedural issue raised by respondent. An appeal to the Commissioner must be initiated within 30 days of the decision that is the subject of the appeal (8 NYCRR "275.16). This appeal was commenced on November 17, 1998, more than 30 days after the transportation director's initial letter of September 14, 1998, but within 30 days of respondent board president's letter of October 21, 1998. Since it is not clear whether respondent made a final determination before October 21, 1998, I decline to dismiss the appeal as untimely.

The appeal must, however, be dismissed on the merits. A board of education may exercise its discretion when designating pick-up and drop-off points (Appeal of Hobbs, 38 Ed Dept Rep 203; Appeal of Marsh, 36 id. 134; Appeal ofKaufman, 36 id. 45), provided that the board uses reasonable care in exercising such discretion (Appeal of Hobbs, supra; Appeal of Marsh, supra; Appeal ofKaufman, supra). In establishing a pick-up point, a board of education must balance considerations of pupil safety and convenience, routing efficiency and costs (Appeal of Hobbs, supra; Appeal of Marsh, supra; Appeal of Krauciunas, 35 Ed Dept Rep 107). Moreover, where a student's home is on a dangerous road or at a remote location, the parents are not free from an obligation to assist the student in reaching the pick-up point (Appeal of DiNapoli, 38 Ed Dept Rep 269; Appeal of Warner, 37 id. 469; Appeal of Kaufman, supra). It is the responsibility of the parent, not the district, to see that the child safely reaches the pick-up point (Appeal of DiNapoli, supra; Appeal of Rheaume-Wellenc, 37 Ed Dept Rep 83; Appeal of Warner, supra).

The record indicates that respondent's transportation director and superintendent reviewed the pick-up point in question and determined it to be safe for children. Specifically, the pick-up point is arranged so that the children are able to wait at their driveway until the bus driver stops traffic in both directions and waves to the children to enter the bus. At that point, the children would cross the road and walk approximately one hundred (100) feet to board the bus. An examination of the intersection revealed that southbound motorists have at least a 500 foot sight distance and northbound motorists have an 800 foot sight distance from the point at which the intersection is first observed to the intersection itself.

The record demonstrates that respondent's administrators considered pupil safety and convenience in reviewing the pick-up point. In view of the foregoing, I cannot conclude that respondent's determination regarding the pick-up point was arbitrary, capricious or an abuse of discretion.