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Decision No. 15,058

Appeal of JEFFREY SCHULER, on behalf of his daughter CHAVA, from action of the Board of Education of the Hewlett-Woodmere Union Free School District regarding transportation.


Decision No. 15,058


(June 1, 2004)


Ehrlich, Frazer & Feldman, Esqs., attorneys for respondent, Jerome H. Ehrlich, Esq., of counsel


MILLS, Commissioner.--Petitioner challenges the transportation arrangements provided by the Hewlett-Woodmere Union Free School District ("respondent") for his daughter, Chava, for the 2003-2004 school year.  The appeal must be dismissed.

Petitioner and Chava, who was 17 years old at the commencement of this appeal, reside within respondent"s district.  Chava has attended the Shevach High School ("Shevach"), a nonpublic school, in Kew Gardens Hills, Queens, since September 2001.  Shevach is within 15 miles of petitioner"s home, and respondent has provided transportation by school bus in previous years.

Petitioner submitted a timely request for transportation to Shevach for the 2003-2004 school year, which was approved in May 2003.  By letter dated July 31, 2003, respondent"s Assistant Superintendent for Business advised that Chava"s transportation would be provided for the 2003-2004 school year by public carriers, using the Long Island Railroad, the Metropolitan Transit Authority "E" subway line, and the Q74 bus line.

Upon receipt of this letter, on or about August 8, petitioner attempted to communicate with district authorities to express his objection to the proposed arrangements on a number of grounds, including the length of time that would be spent traveling each way, the number of transfers involved, and his concerns about his daughter"s safety.  On August 28 he met with respondent"s Business Administrator but was unable to obtain any change in the proposed transportation.

Petitioner and his wife continued to contact both district officials and administrators at Shevach to seek other arrangements.  It appears that on or about September 3, an agreement was reached whereby Chava would be allowed to arrive at Shevach approximately one-half hour after its official starting time, and the district would provide transportation by school bus.  Under this agreement, Chava still had to use public transportation to return home in the afternoon.  The agreement was set forth in a letter dated September 15, 2003, signed by the Business Administrator.

In the meantime, petitioner commenced this appeal, and on September 17 petitioner"s request for interim relief was denied.

By letter dated December 15, 2003, respondent"s attorney provided my Office of Counsel with a copy of a letter dated November 13, 2003 from the Business Administrator to petitioner and his wife.  It appears that the letter had been sent by certified mail, return receipt requested, but had been returned to respondent"s transportation office marked "Returned to Sender " Unclaimed."  The letter begins:  "As you are aware, the district has reached an agreement with District #15 [the Lawrence Union Free School District] that has resulted in Chava being providing [sic] with transportation to and from school on a District #15 bus."  The letter goes on to advise that transportation is being provided on an "open seat" basis, meaning that transportation will continue as long as there is a seat available on the bus, and respondent would incur no additional cost.  The letter further provides that Chava no longer has the option to take public carriers to or from school as long as a seat remained available for her on the Lawrence bus.

Respondent"s counsel represents in a December 15 letter that the Business Administrator"s letter accurately reflected the nature of the transportation services that were being provided to Chava as of that date.  Respondent"s counsel also simultaneously mailed another copy of the November 13 letter to petitioner.  Petitioner has not communicated with my Office of Counsel since that date, either to deny the current transportation arrangements, or to challenge the accuracy of the correspondence.  Further, by letter dated May 7, 2004, in response to a request from my Office of Counsel, respondent"s counsel has confirmed that Chava continues to receive round-trip transportation by school bus.

As a result, I must conclude that the appeal is moot.  The Commissioner will only decide matters in actual controversy and will not render a decision on a state of facts which no longer exists or which subsequent events have laid to rest (Appeal of Bazemore, 41 Ed Dept Rep 449, Decision No. 14,742; Appeal of Johnson, 41 id. 407, Decision No. 14,727; Appeal of Branch, et al., 41 id. 334, Decision No. 14,704).  Respondent is now providing the transportation petitioner requested for Chava, which is the sole relief sought in the petition.