This information supplements the pamphlet "What Students and Parents Need to Know About Riding the School Bus" for those involved in the MCPS special education program. For specific questions not included in this material, parents are urged to contact either the special education office (240-740-3900) or the Transportation Support Services Unit (301-444-8580).
When making inquiries or reporting concerns, students and parents should refer to the route number of the bus in question. Who is responsible for your child's bus route? Locate the Dispatcher by learning how to read a route number below or check out the Transportation Cluster Manager pages.
Each bus displays a sign with its four-digit route number in the side windows near the front of the bus. The first digit indicates the depot number of the bus, the second digit indicates the high school cluster. The third and fourth digits refer to the specific bus route.
For example: a route number of 1219 means that the bus is assigned to the Bethesda Depot (all 1000s), the Churchill cluster (all 200s) and specifically route "19" of that cluster. A bus assigned to a special education route or other cross-cluster route carries the depot number with an 8 or 9 as the second digit.
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Q. Is a special education student guaranteed transportation?
A. Transportation may be considered a related service if it is specified in the student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). The determination as to whether transportation is included as a related service is made by the student’s IEP team after careful consideration of the student’s needs. When not identified as a related service, transportation will be provided in the same way it is provided for general education students. Consequently, some special education students whose handicapping condition permits, and for whom it is safe to do so, may be required to walk to school when attending their home school and their residence is within the specified walking distance. Similarly, they may be required to use the regular education bus.
Q. How soon after a placement decision has been made will transportation services begin?
A. On average, it takes approximately 7-10 school days to process a start or change of transportation services. The special education transportation unit will call parents to notify them when they can expect transportation services to start. At that time they will receive the pick-up time and route number. If the assignment takes place two or fewer weeks prior to the start of the new school year, bus service may not be started until the second week of school (although every effort will be made to begin as soon as possible after the decision).
Q. Can the pick-up and/or drop-off times change from day to day?
A. Generally, morning and afternoon times are reasonably consistent for the duration of the student’s placement. They could vary a few minutes in the morning and afternoon due to traffic conditions. As other students are added to or dropped from the route, it may be necessary to adjust these times throughout the school year.
Q. May a student be dropped off at a location different from the morning pickup?
A. Yes. This can be done on a consistent basis upon request. Morning and afternoon locations can be different. Location differences that change from one day to the next or from week to week cannot be accommodated. Only one morning location and one afternoon location is acceptable and must be within the area served by the program.
Q. Is curb service available?
A. Those students, whose handicapping condition(s) does not permit them to go to a designated bus stop, may be picked up at the safest curb closest to their residence. The decision as to whether curbside pick up and drop off is required is made by the IEP team and indicated on the student’s IEP. Please be aware that in some cases, this service is not possible due to the location of the home. Situations where there would be excessive traffic congestion which blocks a curb, dead-end streets, courts, or other instances that would create a safety hazard for the student and others, will affect Transportation’s ability to provide curbside service.
Q. When a student moves to another part of the county, will the same bus continue the service?
A. Probably not. Depending on the student’s new address, a new school or another route could be assigned. When such a move is anticipated parents should contact their child’s school so that arrangements can be made.
Q. What needs to be done when a student who currently rides the bus starts using a wheelchair?
A. Parents should contact their school or program office that the student is in, as soon as possible so necessary bus arrangements can be made. The current bus may not be able to serve a student in a wheelchair and a change may be necessary.
Q. Can a safety harness, car seat, or booster seat be provided?
A. Yes. They will be provided when needed and/or required by the student’s IEP.
Q. How will a deaf parent be notified in the event that the bus breaks down, or schools are closed early for inclement weather conditions?
A. Schools are equipped with teletypewriter (TTY) equipment and every effort will be made to notify parents about schedule and other changes that affect students. The Department of Transportation can also use the Maryland Relay Service to communicate with parents.
Q. Are bus operators informed about any special dietary restrictions (e.g., no chocolate) or allergies (e.g., bee stings) of the students who ride their buses?
A. Schools inform bus operators at the beginning of the school year about such restrictions. Parents are asked to fill out a medical form with all pertinent information. This form will be kept on the bus and referenced if a medical emergency arises. Parents are also encouraged to open the line of communication with their bus operator and bus attendant about such issues. As a matter of course, bus personnel should not give any food to students because of such restrictions, and eating on the bus is against MCPS policy.
Q. If a child has an electric wheelchair, are there special guidelines that must be followed?
A. Yes. Maryland State Law prohibits the transporting of any liquid acid batteries. Parents whose children have wheelchairs with such batteries should contact the special education transportation supervisor at 301-444-8580.
Q. What is the bus route numbering system?
A. Each bus carries a four-digit sign that designates the route number. It is displayed in side windows near the front of each bus (black number on a white background). The first digit is the depot number where the bus is assigned (see chart above for key). The next number will be either 8 or 9, which designates it as a special education bus. Every parent should help his/her child memorize the bus route number. Parents who still have questions, may call the special education transportation supervisor at 301-444-8580.
The involvement of parents of special education students in assisting their student’s to have appropriate bus behavior goes a long way toward positive attitudes among the riders. Not only should parents reinforce the rules of conduct with their child, but they should assist in every way possible.
Q. What is the first thing a parent/guardian should focus on with his/her special education student?
A. The importance of being on time and knowing the four-digit route number that is posted in the side windows of the bus near the front (black numbers on white background) is the first thing a parent/guardian should focus on. Bus Operators and bus number (painted on the body and bumper) may change, but the route number will be consistent. (See page 6 for additional information)
Q. What should parents do to have their children ready for school?
A. Parents should have their children ready and at the pick-up site 5 minutes before the bus is due. Tight scheduling does not permit bus operators to wait for your child, nor can they blow the horn because this disturbs others.
Q. When does the responsible adult need to be at the bus stop to meet the student in the p.m.?
A. The responsible adult needs to be at the bus stop 20 minutes prior to the scheduled drop-off time. Tight scheduling does not permit bus operators to wait for an adult to arrive.
Q. Can a student be discharged at home without an adult being present?
A. If the child is capable of taking care of himself/herself, this might be considered based on a number of other factors (age, handicapping condition, length of time alone, etc.). Such decisions will be made by administrators on a case-by-case basis. Please be aware that pursuant to Maryland regulation, students under the age of 8 may not be left home alone unless under the care of a “reliable” person who is over the age of 13.
Q. If the child is late getting to the bus stop, can the bus be returned to pick up the student?
A. No. Obligations to other riders and schedules prohibit buses from doubling back for one student. Parents should transport the student to school as soon as possible in order to take part in all scheduled classes.
Q. What are the bus operator’s responsibilities?
A. To operate the bus safely, assume responsibility for behavior and discipline, and maintain an efficient schedule.
Q. What are the duties of the bus attendant on the bus?
A. To ensure the safety and comfort of students and see that wheelchairs, safety vests, etc., are secure. The bus attendant ensures that students stay in their seats while the bus is in motion, and assists them to board or exit the bus at school or at their drop-off.
Q. Can the bus attendant come to the door to pick up and drop off a student?
A. No. The bus attendant is permitted to assist students only in the immediate area of the bus, and not beyond the curb.
Q. Is there a bus attendant on every bus?
A. No. When students enter special education programs, needs are assessed and bus attendants are assigned accordingly. Generally, buses that transport emotionally impaired, profoundly and severely handicapped, and preacademic/early childhood students have bus attendants.
Q. Can a bus operator or bus attendant deliver medicine to school for the student?
A. No. Both the Board of Education and the Montgomery County Health Department have a policy that requires parents/guardians to bring any medications to school. This cannot be violated.
Q. How will discipline problems be handled?
A. Both bus operators and attendants are trained to handle most disciplinary problems. A School Bus Operator Disciplinary Report will be submitted to the principal if there is persistent, disruptive, or unsafe behavior. This could result in a detention, bus suspension, denial of transportation, or the implementation of a behavior modification plan. In some cases, there may be an IEP team meeting to determine what actions are appropriate to address the problem.
Q. If a student cannot conform to bus rules, what type of transportation will be provided?
A. Alternative means may be necessary for those students whose disruptive behavior creates an unsafe condition for other children, the bus operator and attendant, and the motoring public. It is not safe to transport physically aggressive children on buses. Safety will be a primary factor in all decisions.