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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions About School Bus Services


Why can’t the school bus come closer to my house and why don’t some students receive school transportation services?

School buses cannot stop in front of every eligible student’s home.  There are three rules established by South Carolina state law that provide guidance to the school district regarding the placement of school bus stops.

Exceptions: Students with disabilities that live within the 1-½ mile zone may be eligible to receive transportation depending on the relationship between the student’s disability and transportation. Students that live within the 1 ½ mile zone that are required to walk through traffic hazard areas may qualify for service.  State law requires that the school district show a direct correlation between the student’s safety and either railroad or highway traffic. Since these funds are very limited, the state encourages school districts to serve the youngest, most vulnerable students first. Remember, “hazard” only means traffic hazards. Other possible hazards such as wild animals, sexual predators, etc. are concerns that must be handled by parents and law enforcement or other public agencies.

Exceptions: Students with disabilities may qualify for special transportation services and may be eligible to receive transportation in front of their residence, assuming a safe stop can be identified. Also, students that are required to walk through traffic hazard areas to reach a bus stop may qualify for a closer stop. This decision is made by the local school district.

Bus stops must have a clear visibility of 600 feet in each direction, or a "School Bus Stop Ahead" sign must be located at a point 600 feet in each direction from a designated stop. Stops and turn-about shall not be made on blind curves, steep grades, or near the crests of hills or other unsafe traffic environment.  Backing up a school bus is to be avoided.

What about during periods of bad weather?

During periods of inclement weather, buses may be allowed to stop along on their  route at safe points nearest the house of each child in the afternoon only.  Howver, this is not possible during the morning routes and parents must either driver their student(s) to the bus stop or to school. 

Exceptions: Students with disabilities may be eligible to receive transportation at the curb in front of their residence depending on the relationship between the student’s disability and transportation. Students who must walk through traffic hazard areas to reach a bus stop may qualify for service.

Are young students also required to walk?

State law does not consider the age of a student as a factor, so a five-year-old girl receives the same level of service as a 19-year-old boy. Both students may have to walk up to 1½ miles to school or, if they are eligible for state-funded school transportation, they may have to walk up to three-tenths of a mile to access their bus route. The State Department of Education (SDE) believes that young children should receive service closer to their homes and has recommended this change to General Assembly, but no legislation has been passed that would authorize it. The SDE also works with local school districts to prioritize school bus stop locations and the use of state hazardous transportation funding for kindergarten through third-grade students.

Exceptions: Students attending half-day pre-school programs may receive a higher level of service. The trip for these students, either to school or back home, that does not include older students (kindergarten, first grade, etc.) will load or unload students as close as possible to their designated origins or destinations, respectively.

Why can’t the school bus come down my road?

In addition to the student eligibility rules, school buses are only allowed to travel on roadways that assure the safe transport of students. Safety is determined by the ability of the school bus to meet and pass another vehicle of equal size, and the roadway must be well-built enough to avoid damaging the school bus or creating the potential for an accident. The quality of the roadway during bad weather also must be taken into consideration. The safety of the student passengers must be given top priority. School buses are also restricted from using certain private roads. Private roads may only be used with the permission of the owner(s).

How many is too many students on a school bus?

Bus manufacturers determine the seating capacity of each bus, and this rating is usually shown on the manufacturer’s vehicle identification plate. Most South Carolina school buses have a rated seating capacity of 65 to 78 students. Buses that are designed to transport students with disabilities transport fewer students because these buses must make room for wheelchair lift systems and at least two wheelchair securement systems on each bus. Bus manufacturers calculate seating capacity by assigning 13 inches of seat width per student. Thirteen inches is the typical space needed for kindergarten through third-grade students, obviously older students take up more room. The SDE provides a guide to school districts that recommends the rated seating capacity be reduced for middle school students and for high school students. For example, a school bus rated to transport 78 first-graders would be able to transport 52 high school students. But the true test of a school bus’s capacity is whether a bus can safely transport the students assigned to ride. Safety is measured by the fact that every student must be fully seated on the seat cushion, not protruding into the aisle.

There are exceptions to this, however. State law permits school districts to transport students in standing room during the first 20 days of a school bus route. These 20 days usually occur at the beginning of the school year or immediately after the opening of a new school. The SDE reluctantly agrees with this law because school districts have no way to know how many students will be waiting at the bus stop for a ride on the first few days of a route until the bus actually runs the route. Therefore, there are locations that, on a given day, may have more students boarding the bus than there are seats. When this happens, the school district is required to make adjustments in school bus routing so that every student has a safe seat. If “standing students” were never allowed, a school bus driver would be required to leave students standing on the side of the road once the bus reached capacity. This would be a far more dangerous situation for the child. Consider the example of a five-year-old student waiting for the bus, but when the bus arrives, it’s full. The driver tells the child to wait on the side of the road for the next bus, which will be by in 20 minutes. Remember, the child may be standing in a remote location at 6 a.m. It is still dark, and the child’s parents may have already left for work. Children are rarely injured or killed inside a school bus, their greatest risk is walking to and from the bus stop and waiting at the stop.

Can I have my child picked up at one location in the morning and transported to another location after school?

Parents may choose to have their children picked up and/or dropped off at locations other than their homes. This state-funded service is available for students that are eligible riders, although the school bus stop must be in the attendance zone of the school the child is zoned to attend. The service allows students to be transported to and from day care facilities and/or other locations – a grandparent’s house, for example – at the parent’s request.

If you want your child’s school bus stop, morning and/or afternoon, to be at a location other than your residence, you must inform the school district or their representative in writing. School districts have a written procedure to manage this process. When changing the bus stop location for your child, you must give the school district adequate advanced notice so that changes in school bus routes or school bus assignments can be made. Our district will not allow changes more than once or twice a year. Always make sure that your request is in writing, and get a school district confirmation that the changed stop will be implemented on a specific date.

Can I change my child’s transportation plans for the afternoon trip?

Our district usually allows this with proper notice. The parent must submit a request in writing to the Transportation Office for their student's school.  Due to certain limitations request may be denied in accordance with state guidelines.  

What is the maximum ride time for my child?

State law does not limit ride time or distance. Although it is rare for a route to be longer than 1 hour and 30 minutes, this does sometimes occur. The SDE monitors ride times and tries to shorten them as much as possible within the limitations of the bus fleet.

Why can’t I get on the bus to talk to the bus driver?

State law does not allow parents or other adults to board a school bus or impede its progress in any way. This law protects the safety of students and helps assure that routes run on time. If a parent needs to speak with a bus driver, the parent should communicate with the district’s transportation supervisor and arrange a meeting with that driver.

Why can’t my child bring their band instrument home?

Although a student is allowed to carry items on the bus, these items must be held in the student’s lap and must not extend beyond the student’s seating space. The child is not allowed to sit on a book bag or similar carry-on item or store items on the floor of the bus. These are safety requirements. Therefore, students are not allowed to carry large music instruments, science projects, or other items that may protrude into the seating space of another student. Why? In the event of a traffic accident, carry-on items must be secured so they will not easily fly through the air inside the bus. These items must also not be allowed to block access to exits.

What can I do to make my child’s trip to school safe?

Accompany or arrange for an adult to accompany your child to the school bus stop and wait for the school bus to arrive. The same is true in the afternoon.  Be at the school bus stop when the bus arrives and accompany your child home. State law places the responsibility for a child’s safety on the parent until the school bus arrives at the bus stop in the morning, and after the bus leaves the site in the afternoon. 

Who sets school bus routes and schedules?

School bus routes and schedules are managed by the local school district or its agent. In creating routes, school districts must assure compliance with state law, including safe sight clearance for all school bus stops. The SDE provides assistance to each school district, but the district makes all final determinations.

Why is my child’s bus late? Are the school buses breaking down more often?

School buses are usually late for two reasons – either the bus had a mechanical problem or the bus driver was absent or late. Even though the state has a 99.6% rate of school bus availability, older buses do break down more often and cause students to be either late for morning classes or late arriving home in the afternoon. The two main goals of school transportation are to transport students safely and to get students to class on time for instruction. The older the fleet, the greater the chance the school bus will have a maintenance problem and students will be late for class.

Where should children stand at the bus stop? When should they be there?

Students are instructed to be at the school bus stop five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive. The requirement that the student be at the school bus stop does not mean that a student who lives across the road from a bus stop should cross the road and be standing on the shoulder of the road at the passenger loading door side of the school bus. When the school bus driver says “Be at the bus stop,” the driver means that the student should generally be standing on the side of the road nearest to the student’s home. That’s because a school bus stop includes both sides of any two-lane road. Children are not required to cross a multilane road to access a school bus stop. The school bus is equipped with special equipment and lights to control traffic so that students can safely cross the road. Before crossing the road, students are always to watch the school bus driver and wait for the driver to verify that traffic following and meeting the bus has stopped. Once the driver has verified that the traffic has stopped and it is safe to cross the road, the driver will signal the students to cross. Students should check for traffic before crossing the road and watch the school bus driver as they cross in case the traffic environment suddenly changes. Students must never cross behind a school bus. When students cross in front of a bus, they must make sure that the bus driver sees them. The bus driver must acknowledge the student’s crossing. When parents are at a school bus stop to supervise children, they should follow the same road crossing rules as required of the children. Parents need to set a good example. When at the school bus stop, students should not stand next to the roadway. Students should stand away from the road until the school bus has come to a complete stop, the bus has activated the traffic control devices, and the driver has motioned the students to board the bus.

Are the school buses safe?

Yes, the buses are safe. The SDE is required to maintain, in original working order, all of each vehicle’s original safety equipment. However, the older a bus gets, the more differences there are when compared with a new one. For example, only buses purchased after 2000 have alarms that assure that sleeping students are not left on the bus. Buses built after 1999 have anti-lock braking systems; those built after 1998 have seat covers made with fire-blocking material; those built after 1994 have rooftop strobe lights and forward and backup alarms; those built after 1989 have emergency roof and window exits. 

Can my child be required to sit in a designated school bus seat?

Yes, students can be assigned to a seat. This is a practice used by many school districts to control behavior on the school bus. State law gives school districts this authority.

Who do I call if I have a problem with the behavior on the school bus or questions about school bus transportation?

You should direct your inquiry to the Transportation Office for your area of the school your child attends.

Why are there no seat belts on school buses?

School buses are designed with a “compartmentalized” passenger safety system. “Compartmentalized”  basically means that the interior of the bus is designed with seats that are strong, flexible, padded and spaced precise distances apart to protect student riders. In addition, the exterior construction is designed to prevent the penetration of objects into the passenger area or the collapse of the roof. The compartmentalization system is “passive,” meaning that students only need to sit down in the bus seat. They don’t have to put on or attach any kind of device to gain an increased level of safety.

Research shows that school buses with compartmentalization are the safest passenger transportation vehicles – 70 times safer than the family car and four times safer than train travel. A recent study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) concluded that lap belts in school buses create an unsafe situation. The same NHTSA study found very minimum safety benefit to lap/shoulder belt systems on school buses. Lap/shoulder belt systems are also very costly. To install them on all school buses in South Carolina would cost $39 million. The State Department of Education believes that this investment of tax dollars can be better spent improving other school transportation services that would have greater safety benefits.