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Frequently Asked Questions: School Transportation

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What is the Application for State Transportation Aid?

The Application for State Transportation Aid reported within the Annual Secretary of the Board Report reflects eligible and ineligible students transported, the number of days the transportation system operated, and eligible and ineligible miles.  This information, along with allowable costs, is used to calculate state transportation aid.

How is bus ridership tracked?

School districts providing pupil transportation services pursuant to section 163.161, RSMo, are required to prepare a listing of pupils regularly (minimum of once per week) transported (ADT) on each board of education’s approved routes on the second Wednesday of the month for the months of October and February (5 CSR 30-261.010 (1)(E)1). 

What must bus contracts include?

Written contracts are required for all contracted bus transportation services.  The contracts should include requirements that the driver(s) and vehicle(s) meet all applicable state statutes and State Board of Education regulations.  This department also suggests that the contract include the reimbursement amount, the insurance required by the school district and that the contract requires the tracking of ridership and mileage.  The contract must be on file in the school district office (5 CSR 30-261.010). 

Who must be transported? Who can be transported?

Students living more than three and one-half miles from school must be provided transportation service.  All students can be transported by local board decision (167.231, RSMo).  See Funding for students who are eligible for state transportation aid.

What is the Application for State Transportation Aid?

The Application for State Transportation Aid reported within the Annual Secretary of the Board Report reflects eligible and ineligible students transported, the number of days the transportation system operated, and eligible and ineligible miles.  This information, along with allowable costs, is used to calculate state transportation aid.

How is bus ridership tracked?

School districts providing pupil transportation services pursuant to section 163.161, RSMo, are required to prepare a listing of pupils regularly (minimum of once per week) transported (ADT) on each board of education’s approved routes on the second Wednesday of the month for the months of October and February (5 CSR 30-261.010 (1)(E)1). 

 

What must bus contracts include?

Written contracts are required for all contracted bus transportation services.  The contracts should include requirements that the driver(s) and vehicle(s) meet all applicable state statutes and State Board of Education regulations.  This department also suggests that the contract include the reimbursement amount, the insurance required by the school district and that the contract requires the tracking of ridership and mileage.  The contract must be on file in the school district office (5 CSR 30-261.010). 

Who must be transported? Who can be transported?

Students living more than three and one-half miles from school must be provided transportation service.  All students can be transported by local board decision (167.231, RSMo).  See Funding for students who are eligible for state transportation aid.

 

What is the definition of a school bus?

The term school bus when used in sections 302.010 to 302.540, RSMo, means any motor vehicle, either publicly or privately owned, used to transport students to and from school, or to transport pupils properly chaperoned to and from any place within the state for educational purposes (302.010, RSMo).

What is defined as a school bus route and who approve these routes?

A bus route begins when a bus leaves a point (home, school, etc.) empty and proceeds on a predetermined route, picking up pupils and then traveling to a school(s) until the bus is empty; and returning the pupils to a designated point after school (5 CSR 30-261.010 (4)(A)(3)). 

These routes are required to be approved by the local board of education by the end of October and any revisions to the routes by the June board meeting. 

What are eligible transportation miles?

Eligible transportation miles are those miles traveled from where the bus is kept at night until it returns to the same location after the pupils have been returned home, as long as it is used only to transport pupils to and from school (at the beginning and ending of the regular school day). Eligible miles include handicapped summer school route miles, but do not include non-handicapped summer school route miles.  Eligible transportation miles are eligible for state transportation aid (5 CSR 30-261.010 (4)(A)(1) and 5 CSR 30-261.040).

What are ineligible transportation miles?

All miles that are driven for any purpose other than transporting students to and from school during the regular school term are ineligible for state transportation aid. Non-handicapped summer school routes, routes ran only to transport students who live less than one mile from school, non-handicapped early childhood routes, field trips, athletic trips, and other extra-curricular activity trips are examples of ineligible miles. Miles traveled to rerun a route or part of a route to transport students participating in before-school or after-school activities or training (including remediation and extra-curricular) are also ineligible miles. All ineligible miles shall be recorded and subsequently reported on the Application for State Transportation Aid (5 CSR 30-261.010 (4)(A)(2) and 5 CSR 30-261.040 (3)(B)).

Are summer school miles reimbursable?

Regular summer school miles are not reimbursable and should be reported as ineligible-disapproved route miles. Summer school miles for students in an approved special education program, or whose IEP requires summer school transportation, are eligible for reimbursement and should be reported as eligible handicapped miles.

Why don’t school buses have required seat belts?

School buses are equipped with a passive restraint system called compartmentalization that means that the seating area of a school bus is built with specially padded high-back, wider, thicker seats that protect people in school buses during accidents.  No metal surfaces are exposed and seats are spaced close together to contain the students in cushioned compartments.

What is a hardship transfer?

A hardship transfer is a petition for the assignment of pupils based upon the finding of an unusual or unreasonable transportation hardship, usually requiring a ride time greater than 75 minutes (167.121, RSMo. and 5 CSR 20-261.050).

What is the maximum time a student can ride the bus?

Maximum ride time is set by the local boards of education.  There are no restrictions on ride time within the Missouri statutes or State Board of Education Regulations.

What are the Missouri Minimum Standards for School Buses?

Missouri Minimum Standards for School Buses are equipment specifications that are contained in the Minimum Standards for School Buses Manual and apply to all school buses manufactured after a certain date, used to transport Missouri public school students.  The Minimum Standards are usually revised every five years (5 CSR 30-261.025).

What is the Exemplary School Bus Maintenance Award?

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education provides an Exemplary School Bus Maintenance Award to school districts and/or contractors who have 90% or more of their buses pass the Missouri State Highway Patrol spring school bus inspection on their first attempt.  An award is also presented to school districts and/or contractors who have achieved the 90% passage for five or more consecutive years.

How does a school district safely transport early childhood students?

Missouri law mandates that children under the age of 4 be transported in a child safety restraint system (210.104, RSMo); it is recommended by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that children 4 and over but under 40 pounds also be transported in a child safety restraint system.

In transporting early childhood students, it is recommended that a school district follow the recommendations of NHTSA (http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov).

When does a school bus have to be inspected?

Every school bus used to transport children to or from school must be inspected within sixty days prior to operating the bus during the school year (307.375, RSMo).

When do pretrip inspections need to be conducted?

The board of education must require operators of school buses to conduct and prepare a record of the daily pretrip inspection for each school district (5 CSR 30-261.010 (1)(K)).

How many students can be transported on a school bus?

The operator of a school bus can transport no more children than the manufacturer suggests as appropriate and each passenger must have seating space sufficient enough to ensure that the back of each passenger may come into full contact with the seat back (304.060, RSMo and 5 CSR 30-261.010 (4)(B)3.I).

When is a school district required to perform emergency evacuation drills?

Emergency evacuation drills on school buses are required for all students in kindergarten through sixth grade at least once per semester.  The first drill must be completed prior to October 31.  The public school district board of education shall prescribe emergency evacuation drill requirements for all other students (5 CSR 30-261.010 (1)(J)).

What is the Certified School Bus Driver Instructor Program?

The Certified School Bus Driver Instructor Program is a program to train and certify individuals as school bus driver trainers.  This program should help a school district maintain a trained staff of drivers.  The Certified School Bus Driver Instructor training program is jointly sponsored by Central Missouri State University-Missouri Safety Center, Missouri School Bus Contractors Association (MSBCA), Missouri Association of Pupil Transportation (MAPT), and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, School Governance/Transportation Section.  This program is usually conducted during the months of June and July and provides individuals with classroom and hands-on practical instruction activities.  The goal is to provide each trainee with a model curriculum and instructional skills necessary to design and implement a school bus driver training program (302.272, RSMo). 

What are the state professional organizations for school transportation?

There are two school transportation associations in Missouri.  The Missouri Association of Pupil Transportation (MAPT) concentrates on membership and services for district-operated transportation systems and the Missouri School Bus Contractors Association (MSBCA) concentrates on membership and services of school bus contractor-operated transportation systems.

Can a school bus be used for purposes other than transporting students?

School district owned vehicles:  No (301.260 and 302.010, RSMo).  Contractor owned vehicles:  Yes, if the vehicle is licensed commercially and the signs indicating it is a school bus are covered in such a way that it will not appear on the highways as a school bus (304.075, RSMo).

What is the minimum distance between school bus stops?

School bus stops should be established no less than 500 feet apart.  The prewarning amber flashing lights are to be activated 500 feet before a designated stop.

What visibility distance is required at a bus stop?

When stopping the school bus must be visible for at least five hundred feet in each direction on a highway with no shoulder and a speed limit greater than sixty miles per hour.  The bus must be visible for at least three hundred feet in each direction on other roadways (304.050, RSMo).

Can a school bus travel onto private property?

Yes, by local board policy a school bus can travel on private property; however, written permission from all property owners should be obtained.

Does a public school district have to pay highway/road tax?

Missouri school buses are exempt from paying federal fuel excise tax but must pay Missouri highway/road tax.  For an exemption from federal fuel excise tax or a refund of taxes paid contact the IRS (800/829-1040).  School districts can purchase dyed fuel that allows the exemption from federal fuel excise tax up front when fuel is purchased (573/751-2611).

What transportation requirements are in place for handicapped children?

Handicapped children who have special transportation needs must have those needs detailed in the child’s IEP (Individualized Educational Plan) under Related Services.  These needs may include the requirement for a handicapped aide on the bus with the child, door-to-door service, transportation for a handicapped child living less than one mile from school, and transportation for special education summer school.  If written into the child’s IEP these expenses are considered eligible for state transportation aid.

What is the maximum speed limit for a school bus?

There is no speed limit established just for school buses.  The posted speed limit applies to school buses unless the school board policy requires a speed less than the posted speed limit.  The speed limit is 60 m.p.h. if not posted (304.010 2.(4), RSMo).

What are allowable transportation costs?

Allowable transportation costs are costs for transporting students under the provisions of Section 304.060, RSMo, administrative support services, and costs paid to other school districts (5 CSR 30-261.040).

How is state transportation aid provided to a school district?

Any school district which makes provisions for transporting pupils as provided in Section 162.621, RSMo, and Sections 167.231 and 167.241, RSMo, shall receive state aid for the ensuing year for such transportation on the basis of the cost of pupil transportation services provided the current year.  A district shall receive, pursuant to Section 163.031, an amount not greater than seventy-five percent of the allowable costs of providing pupil transportation services to and from school and to and from public accredited vocational courses, and shall not receive an amount per pupil greater than one hundred twenty-five percent of the state average approved cost per pupil transported the second preceding school year (5 CSR 30-261.040 (5)).

What students are eligible for state transportation aid?

State aid for transportation shall be paid as provided in Section 163.161, RSMo, and as implemented in 5 CSR 30-261.040, only on the basis of the cost of transportation for those living one mile or more from school, including publicly-operated university laboratory schools or those who are transported one mile or more to and from public accredited vocational courses, special education classes either in or outside the district.  School term, vocational, and special education students are defined as eligible students in calculating a district's state transportation aid (5 CSR 30-261.040 (4)(A)).

What students who live less than one mile from school can be transported at no appreciable expense?

If a board of education determines that certain students who live less than one mile from school or who are provided shuttle transportation less than one mile to and from specialized learning opportunities are transported at no appreciable expense to that incurred in the transportation of eligible students, a district may provide transportation to these students without increasing or diminishing its entitlement to state transportation aid (5 CSR 30-261.040 (4)(B)).

What are the maximum administrative support service expenditures the district can claim?

Administrative support service expenditures cannot exceed five percent for district-operated and contracted transportation services for each school district's total allowable cost for transportation (5 CSR 30-261.040 (1)(I)).

What are non-allowable transportation costs?

Non-allowable costs include salaries for non-transportation related duties, expenses for the portion of a transportation facility not used for school transportation purposes, buses that are ten years of age or older, supplies for vehicles or equipment that are not used to transport pupils, administrative support service expenditures that exceed 5% of the transportation costs, video cameras, and vehicles other than school buses  (5 CSR 30-261.040 (1) (A), (C) 3, (F), (G), (H), and (I)).

What is the predicted cost used in the calculation of state transportation aid?

An analysis of transportation statistics has confirmed a strong correlation between the average number of bus miles per pupil traveled each day and the average cost per pupil mile.  Based on this correlation, a curvilinear regression analysis is computed to predict the cost per pupil mile, based on the number of miles per pupil per day for each district.  Each district has a unique predicted cost factor (5 CSR 30-261.040 (8)).

What is the cost factor?

The district’s cost factor is the ratio of the district’s actual costs to the district’s predicted costs based on an analysis of the district’s data.  If the ratio is one hundred percent or less, the district program is assumed to be efficient.  If the percentage is greater than one hundred percent, there is presumed inefficiency.  The State Board of Education uses this cost factor expressed as a percentage to adjust allowable costs as an incentive for economical service.  A variance factor of four percent based statistically on the standard error has been determined to allow for any possible error in the analysis (5 CSR 30-261.040 (8)).

What does it mean to be efficient or inefficient?

If a school district’s cost factor is 104.00% or below it is considered efficient.  If a district’s cost factor is above 104.00% it is considered inefficient and the district will receive a financial penalty (5 CSR 30-261.040 (8) (A) 1-5).

Is there an advantage to lowering the cost factor below 104.00%? If so, when?

If a district’s cost factor drops below 104.00% no additional transportation aid is generated; however, a drop in cost is always a local district savings, i.e., 75% maximum reimbursement by the state, 25% minimum paid out of local district funds (5 CSR 30-261.040 (8) (A) 4).

Should a district always code all eligible administrative costs to transportation?

Since administrative costs are indirect a district may want to review these expenses each year to see what effect coding the prorated portion as transportation expenses has on the district’s cost factor.

What effect do administrative costs have on efficiency?

Administrative costs increase allowable costs that could increase the district’s transportation reimbursement; however, administrative costs could also make a district more inefficient thereby incurring or increasing a penalty for inefficiency.

What effect do ineligible miles have on efficiency?

Ineligible miles are part of the Calculation for State Transportation Aid, Line 35, cost per mile calculation.  The more miles there are, eligible or ineligible, the lower the cost per mile, and the more efficient the district appears.

What effect do ineligible miles have on the state transportation aid calculation?

The Calculation for State Transportation Aid, Line 36, backs out the cost for ineligible miles by only multiplying the cost per mile (Line 35) by the eligible miles (Line 29).

What is the “less than one mile 12%” rule?

A local board of education can decide to transport students that live less than one mile from school.  If the district chooses to use the 12% allowance, and does not want to incur a financial penalty, the students must be transported at no additional cost and the number of students transported cannot exceed 12% of the district’s average daily number of eligible pupils transported (5 CSR 30-261.040 (4)(B)). 

What is it “costing” the district in eligible costs to transport students living less than one mile from school?

The “cost” of transporting students less than one mile from school is the difference between Line 36 and Line 38 (if any) on the Calculation for State Transportation Aid (BU110).

What weight does mileage carry in the transportation calculation? What happens when the mileage increases or decreases?

Mileage carries almost three times as much weight as the allowable cost or the ridership.  The district’s calculation is based on a per mile reimbursement.  If the mileage increases the cost per mile drops which has a positive impact on the district’s cost factor.  If the mileage drops, the cost per mile increases which has a negative impact on the district’s cost factor. 

A change in the cost factor doesn’t always mean there will be a change in the entitlement; refer to the Calculation for State Transportation Aid, Line 48.

Why is it important to code handicapped route costs as handicapped expenditures?

Always separating the direct handicapped costs such as the handicapped bus drivers’ and bus aides’ salaries and benefits, fuel, and supplies, and prorating  “global” expenses such as administrator’s salary and benefits, support staff’s salary and benefits, mechanic’s salary and benefits, utilities, insurance, facility operational costs and coding them as handicapped expenditures gives a true picture of the cost of non-handicapped versus handicapped routes. 

Properly coding handicapped expenses will have a positive effect on the district’s non-handicapped efficiency rating.  Handicapped costs do not have the efficiency adjustment applied to them, therefore, the entitlement is always calculated at the 75% maximum.

What effect does ridership have on the formula?

Ridership only effects the efficiency rating (see the Calculation for State Transportation Aid, Lines 39 and 40).  If a district’s cost factor is 104.00% or below, increasing ridership has no effect on the district’s transportation funding.

What effect does school bus and facility depreciation have on the calculation?

School buses and transportation facilities are placed on depreciation schedules and the depreciation is added to the district’s transportation allowable costs (Calculation for State Transportation Aid, Line 24).

What effect do school bus payments (Expenditure Function Code 6552) have on the calculation?

School bus payments have no effect on the calculation for state transportation aid since school bus payments (Expenditure Function 6552) are subtracted out of the allowable costs.

What effect does revenue received from the sale of a bus (Revenue Code 5640) have on the calculation?

The amount received from the sale of a bus is subtracted from the district’s total depreciation for the year.

Are employee benefits an allowable cost?

Yes, any benefits approved by public school district board of education action as necessary to recruit and retain qualified school bus drivers are allowable; however, as a school board considers adding benefits, the effect of the increase to the allowable costs on the cost factor should be considered (5 CSR 30-261.040 (1)(B)).

Where is data for Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) Transportation reported?

No ECSE ridership or mileage data is reported on the Application for State Transportation Aid.  ECSE transportation expenditures should be coded to Function Code 2559 within the ASBR.

What is the definition of a school bus operator?

A school bus operator is an individual who operates a school bus in the transportation of school children and who receives compensation for such service (302.010, RSMo).

When must school bus drivers have a physical?

School bus drivers must have a physical examination annually no more than ninety days before the beginning of the school year (5 CSR 30-261.040).

Who must have a DOT physical?

Drivers employed with a contractor who drive more than home-school-home routes are required, by federal regulation, to have DOT physicals; however, local school district and/or contractor policy may require DOT physicals for other drivers.

Who can perform a school bus driver physical?

Anyone who is licensed in Missouri to perform physical examinations can perform a school bus driver physical (5 CSR 30-261.040).

What do I need to be a school bus operator?

No person shall operate any school bus owned by or under contract with a public school or the state board of education unless such driver has qualified for a school bus (S) endorsement and complied with the pertinent rules and regulations of the Department of Revenue.  A school bus operator must have successfully passed an examination for the operation of a school bus as prescribed by the director of revenue.  The examination shall include, but need not be limited to, a written skills examination of applicable laws, rules and procedures, and a driving test in the type of vehicle to be operated (302.272, RSMo).

When is a Commercial Drivers License (CDL) required?

When driving a vehicle capable of transporting 16 or more including the driver (Federal Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986).

When is a Class E (For-Hire) driver’s license required?

A Class E driver’s license is required when contracted with or employed with a school district to provide transportation services in a vehicle that transports less than 16 including the driver (Department of Revenue).

How do I obtain a school bus (S) endorsement?

To obtain a school bus endorsement, you must:

  1. Pass the knowledge and skills test for obtaining a CDL with passenger (P) endorsement (for vehicles that transport 16 or more including the driver) or a Class E (For Hire) license for vehicles that transport 15 or less including the driver.
  2. Pass a knowledge test for an S endorsement.
  3. Pass a driving skills test in a school bus of the same vehicle group as the school bus applicant will drive.
  4. Take your written and skills test results to the local license bureau to apply for a new CDL or Class E license with an S endorsement.
  5. Meet driving history review requirements (completed at the time of application).
  6. Pay the applicable fees for a new license and the required fees for the written and/or skills test.

What do I need to renew my school bus (S) endorsement?

The S endorsement is now part of the driver’s license process, when the license is renewed the S endorsement is also renewed (after a driving history is run by the local license bureau).

What if I employ a school bus driver over 70 years of age?

A driver who is over 70 years of age must renew their driver’s license annually and are required to submit proof of a school bus skills test to retain the S endorsement on their driver license at time of renewal.

Do school district employees who are not hired to transport students need a school bus (S) endorsement?

The term “school bus operator” shall not include any person who transports school children as an incident to employment with a school district, such as a teacher, coach, administrator, secretary, school nurse, or janitor, unless such person is under contract with or employed by a school district as a school bus operator (Section 302.010, RSMo). 

“School bus operators” and drivers of school buses that transport 16 or more including the driver are required to have an S endorsement.  All school bus operators must have the proper driver’s license for the vehicle they are operating.

What type of license do I need to drive a school bus?

A CDL w/passenger and S endorsement is needed for any driver of a vehicle that is 26,000 lbs or greater, a Class E with school bus (S) endorsement is needed for any driver of a vehicle that is less than 26,000 lbs. and who is compensated for transporting school children (302.010, RSMo).

Can a school district contract with a parent to provide student transportation?

A district may enter into a contract with a family member to transport their own children.  The contract must be stated in terms of reimbursement for mileage, not hourly, in an amount equal to or less than the current AAA mileage rate for a car (currently 54.1 cents per mile, 2008) to avoid the requirement that anyone paid to transport school children must have a Class E license with S endorsement. If the parent is paid a lump sum amount, an hourly wage, or more than the current AAA rating of the “average cost of operating a car” the parent is considered to be receiving pay for transporting school children.  In this case, the parent must have a Class E license with S endorsement.  The family would also be required to report any payments other than mileage as income to the IRS (Internal Revenue Service).

Parents must agree to be properly licensed and to provide transportation in a safe, inspected, insured, licensed vehicle (5 CSR 30-261.045).

Can a school district contract with an individual, who is not the parent, to transport students?

Yes, districts may enter into a written contract with individuals that agree to transport children in their private vehicles.  The contract must be stated in terms of reimbursement for mileage, not hourly, in an amount equal to or less than the current AAA rating of the “average cost of operating a car” (currently 54.1 cents per mile, 2008) to avoid the requirement that anyone compensated to transport school children must be licensed as a school bus operator.  If the individual is paid a lump sum amount, an hourly wage or more than the current AAA rating of the “average cost of operating a car” the individual is considered to be receiving compensation for transporting school children. In this case, the driver must have a Class E license with S endorsement.

These individuals must agree to be properly licensed and to provide transportation in a safe, inspected, insured, licensed vehicle (5 CSR 30-261.045).

Can a school district contract with a taxicab to transport students?

Yes, however, taxicab drivers paid to transport school children must have a Class E For-Hire driver’s license with an S endorsement.  The driver or firm should operate only under written contract with the school district and agree to meet all applicable state statutes and State Board of Education regulations for the transportation of students (5 CSR 30-261.045).

How many hours in a row can a bus driver operate a school bus?

A bus driver cannot drive a school bus for more than eight consecutive hours unless the driver stops operation of the bus for at least sixty minutes.  A bus driver cannot operate a school bus for more than twelve hours in a twenty-four hour period (5 CSR 30-261.010 (3)(A)18 and for bus contractors-all applicable DOT regulations).

What does a driver with an out-of-state license need to operate a school bus in Missouri?

If the driver currently holds an out-of-state CDL license, the driver must meet the requirements for the S endorsement in their state of record and obtain the S endorsement on their CDL to be eligible to drive a school bus for a Missouri school.

What training is required for Missouri school bus drivers?

On an annual basis, each school district shall provide training in at least eight hours of duration to each school bus driver employed by the school district shall provide special instruction in school bus driving.

When should a fingerprint based criminal history check be run on a school bus driver?

The school district check is conducted for all new school bus drivers, effective June 2005. The district may allow such drivers to operate buses pending the result of the criminal background check. For bus drivers, the background check shall be conducted on drivers employed by the school district or employed by a pupil transportation company under contract with the school district (168.133, RSMo) and coordinated through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  

Who retains the documentation on school bus driver physicals, training, and criminal history background checks?

The school district or school bus contractor should retain documentation for all school bus drivers of an annual physical, 8 hours of annual training, and (for new hires after June 2005) the criminal history background check results (162.065, RSMo).

How often do I renew my driver’s license and/or school bus endorsement?

The school bus endorsement renews with the driver’s license on the normal renewal cycle of every 6 years for drivers under 70 and annually for drivers over 70.

Who do I contact if I have questions about public school transportation?

DESE School Governance/School Transportation
573/751-0357
http://dese.mo.gov/divadm/trans/

MoDOT, Office of Highway Safety
Child Restraint Systems and Seat Belt Information
800/800-BELT

Department of Revenue
License Issuances
573/751-2730