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Decision No. 14,617

Appeal of BEATRIZ C. SARANT, on behalf of THOMAS W. SARANT, from action of the Board of Eduction of the Massapequa Union Free School District regarding transportation.

Decision No. 14,617

(August 3, 2001)

Guercio & Guercio, attorneys for respondent, Richard J. Guercio, Esq., of counsel

MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals the determination of the Board of Education of the Massapequa Union Free School District ("respondent") denying her request to transport her son Thomas to a nonpublic kindergarten for the 2001-02 school year. The appeal must be dismissed.

On March 29, 2001, petitioner submitted a request for bus transportation to St. William the Abbot kindergarten in Seaford. Petitioner asserts that on April 3, 2001, she met with the director of Thomas's nursery school, who recommended that Good Shepherd Lutheran School ("Good Shepherd") in Plainview would better suit Thomas's needs. Petitioner states that she could not arrange an appointment with the director of Good Shepherd until April 20. On April 23, 2001, she submitted a request for bus transportation for Thomas to attend Good Shepherd. Respondent denied petitioner's transportation request on May 17, 2001. This appeal ensued. Petitioner's request for interim relief was denied on June 18, 2001.

Respondent contends that it properly denied the transportation request because it was untimely. In addition, the district would incur an additional expense of $489.07 a month to transport Thomas to Good Shepherd.

Pursuant to Education Law "3635(2), 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 (Appeal of Joanne M., 40 Ed Dept Rep ___, Decision No. 14,584; Appeal of Goyal, 40 id. ___, Decision No. 14,415). The purpose of this deadline is to enable school districts to budget funds and make necessary arrangements to provide transportation reasonably and economically (Appeal of Joanne M., supra; Appeal of Goyal, supra). 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 Attubato, 38 Ed Dept Rep 511, Decision No. 14,082). A belated decision to enroll a student in a private school is not a reasonable explanation for the late submission of a transportation request (Appeal of R.O., 40 Ed Dept Rep ___, Decision No. 14,441; Appeal of Attubato, supra; Appeal of Amoroso, 37 Ed Dept Rep 359, Decision No. 13,879). Even absent a reasonable explanation for the 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 Mogilski, 37 Ed Dept Rep 446, Decision No. 13,901).

Petitioner implies that she has offered a reasonable excuse for her late transportation request because she did not know that Good Shepherd would be a better placement for Thomas until after the April 1 deadline. However, as noted above, numerous Commissioner's decisions have held that a belated decision to enroll a student in a nonpublic school does not constitute a reasonable excuse for failure to submit a timely transportation request. This is true even where the particular abilities of a child have not been evaluated until after the April 1 deadline (Appeal of Galvani, 34 Ed Dept Rep 370, Decision No. 13,346; Appeal of Mally, 34 id. 303, Decision No. 13,320).

Petitioner also alleges that in several telephone conversations with district employees after she submitted her second request on April 23, she learned that the district had not yet made any transportation decisions. Petitioner asserts therefore that the change in Thomas's school had no adverse effect on the district's transportation plans or budget. However, the Commissioner has long held that a board"s refusal to grant a late transportation request is not an abuse of discretion where additional expense is necessary, even if the request is prompted by a change in school enrollment which occurs after April 1 (Appeal of R.O., supra; Appeal of Gabay, 39 Ed Dept Rep 492, Decision No. 14,290; Appeal of Amoroso, supra). Respondent asserts that the district would incur an additional expense of $489.07 a month to transport Thomas to Good Shepherd. Accordingly, I conclude that respondent has not abused its discretion in denying petitioner"s late transportation request where it would incur additional expenses to grant such request.