Answer: Special care is taken with our youngest children. Schools help us by identifying kindergarteners who board our buses in the afternoon and assure that they are seated in the front of the bus. All kindergarten students riding afternoon school buses are to be met at their bus stop by the parent, a guardian, or a sibling middle school age or higher, or the driver will ask that the school be notified by transportation of the student’s return.
Answer: Connect to http://www.fcps.edu/fts/tran/contact/index.shtml and select your child’s school. That will take you to the phone numbers and email addresses of the supervisor and managers responsible for your child’s bus and driver.
Answer: The basic purpose in spacing school bus seats so closely is to contain the child in a cushioned compartment with only a minimum amount of space between energy-absorbing surfaces.
After extensive research during the 1970's, the Department of Transportation and its agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), determined that the safest and most practical arrangement for school bus seating would be a "compartmentalization" concept. Accordingly, the new safety regulations established in 1977 included this requirement among many other improvements made that year. Under the compartmentalization concept, seat backs in school buses are made higher, wider and thicker than before. All metal surfaces are covered with foam padding. This structure must then pass rigid test requirements for absorbing energy, such as would be required if a child's body were thrown against the padded back. In addition, the equivalent of a seat back, called a "barrier," is placed in front of the first seat at the front of the bus.
In addition to padding, today's seats also must have a steel inner structure that springs and bends forward to help absorb energy when a child is thrown against it. The steel frame must "give" just enough to absorb the child in the seat ahead. Also, of course, the seat is required to be anchored to the floor so strongly it will not pull loose during this bending action. The floor itself must be so strong that it will not be bent or torn by the pulling action of the seat anchors.
Finally, the requirement added that seat backs can be no farther apart than a distance that is deemed safe. Clearly, if the backs were too far apart, the child could be thrown too far before being cushioned and/or could be thrown outside the compartment altogether. Today's rules call for a seat back to be no farther than 24" away from a defined point in the middle of a child's abdomen (the seat reference point).
Answer: You can visit the school and look at the routes, finding the stop closest to your home, or you may call the Transportation Office responsible for your school. Connect to http://www.fcps.edu/fts/tran/contact/index.shtml and select your child’s school. This link will take you to the phone numbers and email addresses of the supervisor and managers responsible for your child’s bus and driver.
Answer: Bus stops are placed at centralized locations that can be safely accessed by a significant number of students to minimize the time length and mileage of the run. If you have concerns about your child's safety you are encouraged to accompany your child to the bus stop or arrange a neighborhood buddy to walk with your child. Elementary children may be required to walk up to one mile to a bus stop. Secondary students may be required to walk up to one and a half miles to a bus stop.
Answer: Yes, if the day care provider’s address is outside the walking boundary for the school of attendance.
Answer: If you want transportation to or from a day care provider's location, you should contact the route supervisor responsible for transportation to your child's school of placement.
Answer: The child's parent or guardian must send a written request to the school principal. If approved, the principal will provide written authorization to the driver of that bus.
Answer: If there is an emergency after regular office hours, call the School Security office at 571-423-2000. They are on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and are able to contact whoever is required to handle any type of situation regarding school buses.
Answer: Fairfax County Public Schools' buses make two to four runs into and out of schools each day. We currently carry over 110,000 students to school and bring them home daily. On the majority of these runs, FCPS buses achieve a load factor of more than 60%. However, there are exceptions.
Several high schools have boundaries that stretch from the western to the eastern part of Fairfax County. For example, Langley and Oakton High Schools have boundaries stretching from Loudoun County to McLean and Fair Oaks. Robinson, Lake Braddock, South County, and Hayfield also have large boundaries that extend bus runs in miles and time resulting in less than capacity loads.
FCPS has many special programs that require that students be transported considerable distances, sometimes across the entire county. When transporting students to these special programs, the time length of the run usually makes it impossible to fully utilize the capacity of the bus. Sometimes, however, as the bus travels within the school's attendance boundary it will stop and pick up additional students. Examples of these special programs include special education, magnet schools, gifted and talented programs, alternative programs and schools, and academy programs.
Answer: The first priority is to provide transportation to and from school. The school bus fleet does not contain a separate set of buses designated for field trip use. Therefore, whenever school buses are not in use for normal to and from school transportation, they are available for field trip use. For planning purposes, school buses are available on school days prior to 6 a.m., from 9:15 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and again after 4:30 p.m. Occasionally in the Spring, the demand for field trips can outnumber the drivers and buses available. Transportation staff and requesters of field trips discuss individual circumstances.
Answer: Instruments are allowed on buses if they can be SAFELY carried in the student’s lap. We have concerns about both space (seats are made available on the basis of student loads) and safety. Larger instruments are extremely dangerous in the event of a crash or, potentially, a sudden stop. They can injure the students seated in the vicinity of the instrument or block the aisle making an emergency evacuation impossible.
Answer: School bus drivers can have the same reasons as motorists for being late. Traffic delays, weather conditions, accidents or driver's illness are just a few reasons. School buses also have mechanical breakdowns or "no starts" that cause delays in picking students up on time. A school bus may be able to run, but have a red traffic light malfunction which would make it unsafe to pick up or discharge students on our highways before it is repaired. In cases where the regularly assigned bus or driver is unable to pick up students, a separate bus and driver are dispatched to pick up the students. Generally, when a bus starts out late on its first or second run, it continues to be late for its third or fourth run also.
Answer: Drivers check their buses after every run. Items left by students are held by the driver for several days and may be claimed on the bus by the child. Fragile items are often taken out of the buses in the evening for their protection, but will be available the next morning. After several days the driver will make an effort to locate the owner. Unclaimed and unlabeled items are donated to charity. You can help by labeling all of your child's school belongings with the child's name and school.
Answer: The FCPS regulation provides transportation for all elementary students living in excess of one mile from school and for all secondary students living in excess of one and a half miles from school. Regardless of the distance, transportation will be provided if the transportation office determines that there is no walking route available that does not subject students to unusual hazards.
Answer: Supervisors measure the shortest safe route between the property line of the home and closest access point on the school’s property line, using a walking wheel that measures sidewalks, paths and street crossings in one foot increments. Car odometers are not accurate enough to precisely measure the distance.
Answer: School bus sizes are stated in terms of passenger capacity for elementary school-aged children. It is assumed that elementary school-aged children will ride three per seat. Middle and high school students are assumed to ride two per seat. If the bus has 3 elementary students or 2 middle or high school students in each seat, it will seem crowded but it will not be over capacity. It is our goal to fully utilize all the space on all the buses in our fleet.
Answer: Fairfax County Public Schools has several types of school buses. The majority of FCPS buses are Transit Style buses that have a flat front, like a Metro bus. Most of the largest (general education) buses are rear-engine; shorter lift buses have the engine in the front. The benefits of this design are that (1) it affords the driver excellent forward visibility, (2) since there is no large hood, it is easier and safer for the driver to check the engine prior to driving and (3) allows more seats in the same overall vehicle length. All of the buses that Fairfax County has bought since 1990 have been this type of bus.
The second major style of bus is the Conventional Style, which is the traditional style with the long forward hood. The decreased forward visibility afforded by this design is compensated for by swing-out "crossing gates" which force any students crossing in front of the bus to walk well out in front of the bus so that the driver can see him or her. As of Spring 2008, Fairfax County has begun to purchase conventional lift buses as SE students are not required to cross the street to board the bus.
All of our buses are powered by low-sulfur diesel and equipped with automatic transmissions and two-way radios. Newer buses are equipped with air conditioning.
Answer: Seat belts are not required in school buses because research by DOT and others determined that compartmentalization was a better solution, as mentioned under question #15. Some of the key arguments favoring compartmentalization over seat belts are as follows:
a) Compartmentalization is more manageable. The protective surfaces exist in place without depending on any action by the children or any extra special supervision by the drivers. Seat belts require discipline and supervision to keep them clean, unraveled and in use.
b) Compartmentalization works equally well for 1, 2 or 3 students per seat. Today's 39" wide standard seats may contain three small children or two large ones, or any combination in between. Arranging seat belts to properly handle any combination is difficult, if not impossible; the best known solution with seat belts is to restrict each seat to two students and two belts, which has the disadvantage of sharply reducing the carrying capacity of bus fleets.
c) Compartmentalization works whether students have fully developed abdominal areas or not. Conventional seat belts, which are lap restraints only, are not suitable for small children whose abdominal area and bone structure are not adequately developed to take the force of a lap belt alone. They need the help of chest harnesses also, which adds to the complexity of a proper seat belt solution.
d) Compartmentalization, once it has done its energy-absorbing job, leaves the student free to escape the bus. Seat belts could leave students strapped in, upside down, perhaps unconscious, in burning or flooding buses.
e) Compartmentalization is most affordable. Although not a part of the DOT reasoning, this is a factor to be considered. In evaluating the cost of seat belts alone, one should include the cost of retractors and chest restraints also, since those appear needed. Even more important is the probability that a seat belt solution should lead to two students per seat and greater spacing between seats, thereby requiring more buses for the same student load.
For additional information, please go to The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services position paper on Passenger Crash Protection in School Buses.
Answer: The rated capacity of a 39" width passenger seat was devised many years ago by the committee then making recommendations to the National Minimum Standards for School buses. In determining seating capacity of a bus, an allowable average rump width standard was established.
Accordingly, 13" of rump width was suggested when a 3 - 3 seating plan was used. This suggested guideline is still recognized by most states as the accepted approach. It is not a federally mandated requirement.
Answer: Buses operate throughout the day with shuttles, kindergarten runs, and field trips, in addition to the normal to-and-from school transportation requirements. In order to have the required number of operational buses each day, a group of backup or spare buses must be retained. By state regulation, school buses are required to be serviced and inspected every 30 days. When a bus is in for service, a spare bus is required to continue its runs without interruption. Furthermore, when a bus has mechanical problems or damage from accident or vandalism that require it to be out of service, a spare bus is needed to perform the duties of the out-of-service bus. Often, this can be for an extended period of time, especially in the case of accident repairs.
Spare buses are also used during the year to augment the operating fleet when new student transportation requirements necessitate that the daily operating fleet be increased. Because of delays created by the budget, procurement, and production processes, it can take from nine months to a year for additional buses to arrive. During that time, the spare buses are used to satisfy the requirement.
Answer: Each school is assigned to a transportation team. Special needs students are transported on both large and small buses. Please select the designated Bus Team for your child’s school from the link found below for your Transportation point of contact. Connect to http://www.fcps.edu/fts/tran/contact/index.shtml, and select your child’s school.
Answer: In order to maximize the use of our school bus fleet and to provide a more efficient operation with as few buses as possible, schools are put into one of four distinctly different time schedules. That enables one bus to serve two to four different schools within 2 1/2 hours in the morning and afternoon. High schools are generally in the first or second time schedule, middle schools are on the first, second or third schedule and elementary schools can be on any of the first, second, third or fourth since there are more elementary schools than any other.
Typical school time schedules are:
High/Middle School - 7:20/7:40 a.m. - 2:05/2:30 p.m.
Elementary School - 8:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Elementary School - 9:05 a.m. - 3:40 p.m.
It is necessary to change some schools starting and ending times each year due to program changes such as the restructured seven-period day or other changes that may prevent the use of additional school buses.
Answer: In general, drivers are told that if they arrive at a stop and perceive any possible problems with releasing a student, they are to retain the student, contact their offices by radio and report it, and then return the child to school. Typically, this happens when a parent who is always there to meet a child is not present on a given day. It has also occurred if the driver perceived a direct threat to a child or children. For example, a group of people holding or trying to hide potential weapons standing at a bus stop; a street condition prior to a stop that presents a danger to the safety of the bus and the students on board; a suspicious vehicle or pedestrian in proximity to the stop.
Specific requirements if these are not met, the student will be returned to school.
School bus drivers have been told that if any child expresses reluctance to leave the bus at a stop, for whatever reason, the child is to be returned to school at the completion of the run.
Answer: Your child should arrive at the stop at least five minutes before the regular arrival time of the bus. If there is a substitute driver, the times may not be absolutely consistent with the regular times. If the bus is late ask your child to remain at the stop. Buses break down, roads are blocked, drivers become ill or have emergencies, but there will always be a bus at every stop. If the wait becomes extreme, please call your area transportation office. Connect to http://www.fcps.edu/fts/tran/contact/index.shtml, and select your child’s school. That will take you to the phone numbers and email addresses of the supervisor and managers responsible for your child’s bus and driver.
Answer: If approved and at a later date the bus becomes overcrowded, the walking route becomes unsafe, or the stop is removed, the approval will be rescinded in order of the most recent application first. The approval is granted only for the current year and must be resubmitted.
Answer: Transportation can be provided for students within the walking boundary if there is space available on the bus, and if they have a safe walking route to the bus stop. The "Request for Exemption to Ride School Bus" form may be obtained in your school office. Complete and submit the form to the area transportation office for evaluation. You will be notified of the decision.
Answer: If you believe an unsafe situation exists, address your concerns to your area transportation office. Transportation staff familiar with the area and the traffic patterns will evaluate your concerns about the walking route. If a further evaluation is required the school system safety officer is consulted. If unusual hazards are identified, bus transportation will be provided.
Answer: No. It is impossible for the staff to assess the safety of every possible walking route to a bus stop or a school, and every family will have a different definition of “most direct or reasonable route.” Even more important, what is “safe” varies from child to child. It is very important that you assess your child’s age and maturity before permitting him or her to walk unaccompanied to school or a bus stop. Keep in mind that children younger than age 9 or 10 often do not make good decisions regarding traffic safety, and generally should be accompanied by an adult or responsible older child. Regardless of the child’s age, if the child’s behavior or maturity suggests that he or she will be unsafe without adult or other supervision, or if the parents have any concerns about conditions on the route, parents should provide supervision on the walking route and/or at the bus stop.
Call Safety & Security - 571-423-2000
Lea Ann Deyarmin
September 4, 2012