School Bus Services
Everything you need to know to get your child to school safely.
Bus Delay Notification SystemThis system provides parents with timely notification of late bus route information. Parents may access the system to receive the delayed bus report. Morning route information will be available until noon, afternoon route information will be available from 1-7 p.m.
The mission of Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), Office of Transportation Services, is to provide safe, efficient, and timely transportation for all eligible students.
We provide transportation to students who live in the designated attendance area of a particular school, usually beyond the approved walking distance of one mile for elementary and 1.5 miles for secondary students. Transportation is required for certain students with special needs, as defined by federal law.
There are exceptions made for safety reasons and as defined in the School Board regulation for an exception to ride. Permission for walkers to ride buses can be given with the approval of a submitted form, and as long as the following conditions exist:
- An existing bus stop is available and used.
- There is a walking route to the bus stop that is free of any unusual hazards.
- Space is available on the bus.
The guidelines and request form for Requesting an Exception for School Bus Services are provided below (Forms TR51 and TR52).
All FCPS bus drivers go through a criminal background check, and must pass a medical exam and drug test. In addition, all drivers must submit personal and business references, and take a special training course that includes behind the wheel, first aid, CPR, and special needs training. All drivers must have a valid commercial driver's license and must take special classes to show skill and knowledge in driving a passenger vehicle and school bus. Drivers have regular training, re-certification, and random drug testing.
School Bus Safety Tips
The most dangerous place for bus passengers is the 10-foot area around the outside of the bus. We call this the "danger zone" because this is where the school bus driver may not be able to see passengers. Here are some simple rules on the school bus and at the bus stop to stay safe:
- Always be on time at the bus stop.
- Always stand back from the curb.
- Always walk to and from the bus. Do not run.
- Always await your turn to get on or off the bus. Do not push and shove.
- Always stay in your seat unless the driver tells you otherwise.
- Always keep the aisle in the bus clear.
- Always talk quietly to the people sitting around you. There's no need to yell and shout.
- Always obey the driver. His or her job is to look out for your safety.
- Always take at least 10 giant steps before turning when you get off the bus. This is so the driver can see you.
- Always wait for the driver's okay before crossing the street.
- Always cross the street at least 10 feet in front of the bus. This is so that the driver can see you.
- Never crawl underneath a school bus. If you drop something, tell the driver, and he or she will tell you what to do.
Information and forms for the Conduct of Students Riding School Buses are incorporated in the FCPS Student Responsibilities and Rights (SR&R). When parents sign the SR&R, they acknowledge appropriate behaviors for students using school buses.
One thing that is important to know is that the use of cell phones or other electronic devices is limited to texting, playing games, and listening to music only with the use of headphones. Failure to follow these guidelines will be reported to school administration. Telephone conversations are allowed only with the explicit permission of the driver.
Carry-On Items Policy
Space on buses can be tight, with limited available seat width for students. Large instruments and projects are allowed on buses if they can be safely carried in the student’s lap. Otherwise, large items, which are extremely dangerous in the event of a crash or sudden stop, must be transported by the parent.
Lost items will be held on the bus or returned to the school office. Unclaimed and unlabeled items are donated to charity.
FCPS selects bus routes that run on roads that are properly maintained and considered to be safe for school bus travel. Stops are not designed to drop students off in front of their homes and parents are responsible for making sure that they choose a safe walking route for their children to get to and from the bus stop. Exceptions are made for students with special needs. Bus stop information is NOT published on any public website for safety reasons. Schools will provide the list to students before the beginning of the school year.
There are times when the driver may make a decision to return children to school. This may happen when:
- The driver has any concerns regarding the safety of releasing a student.
- A child expresses concern, for any reason, about getting off of the bus.
- There are no safe, transportation-approved alternate locations in the case of emergencies (such as road closures, accidents, or weather related road problems).
Kindergarten, FECEP-Head Start Preschool, FECEP-Head Start
Kindergarten students riding on afternoon school buses will be returned to school unless they are met at the bus door by a parent, guardian, caregiver, or sibling who is middle school age or higher and asked for by name.
Family and Early Childhood Program (FECEP)-Head Start-Pre-School, FECEP-Head Start, and pre-school students will be returned to school unless they are met at the bus door by a parent or another responsible adult who is 18 years of age or older and named in writing by the parent.
Students may be required to walk to schools or bus stops up to one mile for elementary students and 1.5 miles for secondary students. The distance is measured with a walking wheel (not an odometer) and run from the school property line to the residential property line. If there are two or more acceptable walking routes, the route that is the shortest will be considered to be valid. However, we do not assess all possible walking routes, supervise those routes, or guarantee the safety of any particular route. Staff members provide general safety information to school communities, and respond to requests for specific information and advice when possible. We also assess routes for unusual hazards when concerns are brought to their attention by walkers, parents, or others.
- Evaluation of student walking routes
- Kiss and Ride areas
- Crossing guards
- Traffic control matters and other safety concerns with school sites
Parents are responsible for selecting their children's walking routes to and from bus stops, schools, and home. Parents are also responsible for providing supervision that is appropriate to the student's age, the student's maturity, and conditions on the route. Special arrangements or precautions may be needed for younger riders such as students in kindergarten or preschool.
As a parent and community member, it is also important to know the rules of interacting with a school bus when you are driving. Here are some of the most important rules to know and remember:
- All drivers must stop for a school bus when a school bus is stopped for the purpose of loading or unloading children.
- A driver approaching an intersection from any direction must stop and remain stopped until all children are clear of the highway and the bus is put in motion.
- An an undivided highway or street, all motorists must stop, even in the center turning lane, and remain stopped until all children are clear of the highway and the bus is in motion.
- On a divided highway or street, drivers traveling in any of the lanes going in the same direction as the school bus must stop. Motorists on the highway on the other side of the physical barrier or unpaved area are not required to stop.
- Motorists are required to stop when a school bus is loading or unloading children even if the school traffic safety devices are not functioning properly. There are legal penalties for not stopping. Penalties can include:
- Reckless driving charge
- Jail for not less than 12 months, fine of $2,500 (or both)
- Four points on your license
Safety Patrol Program
Transportation and schools work together to support the Safety Patrol Program. Patrols are very important for bus safety. Patrols help the driver by assisting during emergency drills, maintaining order on the bus and at the bus stop, and serving as lookouts while the bus is backing. View the following Safety Patrol Handbook for additional information.
Student Safety Patrol Handbook
A Guide for Patrol Sponsors.
- Assist the school by submitting accurate and timely information to your child’s school.
- Submit correct information on the Student Emergency Care Card. Incorrect and untimely information may delay the onset of transportation services.
- Inform the school administrator, bus driver, or attendant of any medical condition or behavior which might affect the student’s safety or health on the bus.
- Assure that, when applicable, an authorized person will be at the bus stop on time when the child is dropped off. Provide the school with the enclosed form to release your student unattended when appropriate.
- Make sure your child is fully clothed, toileted, and ready at the bus stop five minutes before pickup time. Due to your child’s needs, it may be necessary to accompany your child to the designated pick up or from the drop off point. The bus driver is not required to wait and cannot blow the horn for a tardy student, as this creates late pick-up times for other students.
- If your child misses the bus, the driver cannot come back. Transport your child to school as quickly as possible and notify the school of any problems.
- Teach your child the school bus safety rules and appropriate bus-riding behavior.
- Maintain and return--in good working condition--all equipment issued by FCPS for transporting your child.
- Be at the bus stop at least five minutes before pick up time.
- Always sit down and buckle seat belt (when available).
- Listen to the driver and attendant.
- No eating or drinking inside the school bus.
- No fighting, no smoking, and talk quietly.
- No abusive language.
- No pets, toys, or distracting objects on the school bus.
- Respect the rights of the other students, drivers, and attendants.
- Students who drive their own vehicles or ride with friends on a regular basis instead of riding the school bus should not expect bus transportation when their private vehicles are not available for their use.
Driver and Attendant Responsibilities
- Notify the parent or guardian of the bus number and approximate time of pick-up and approximate drop-off.
- Ensure the overall safe operation of the school bus.
- Display appropriate care and patience.
- Be prepared to provide appropriate medical intervention.
- Maintain an emergency evacuation plan that lists the needs and ability of each student. Be prepared to effectively and efficiently evacuate the bus in the event of an emergency.
- Understand and maintain the privacy and confidentiality of the families whose children they transport.
- Complete and submit an incident report to the designated school administrator for behavior problems that occur on the bus.
- Report to the school administration any significant changes in a student’s behavior.
- Assist students on and off of the bus as required by their special needs.
- The attendant will be located in a position inside the bus that best meets the needs of all the students.
- The attendant will help students who need assistance boarding and leaving the bus.
- To avoid the risk of injury to students or assisting adults, students should not be carried up or down the bus steps during the loading or unloading procedure. If a student cannot negotiate the bus steps with a reasonable degree of assistance, the bus driver and assistant should consult the Transportation Office to implement an alternative procedure. One exception would be the infants in the teen-parenting program secured in infant carriers. Preschool age students may be carried up and down the bus steps during loading and unloading.
- The attendant works with the driver to secure belts, wheelchairs, and additional equipment.
- The attendant will help students exhibit safe bus riding behavior by ensuring that students stay in their seats and follow bus safety rules.
- The attendant will help with student’s needs and advise the driver when medical help is needed.
Fairfax County Public Schools requires that the bus driver have access to emergency and health information for each student. Each special needs student must have accurate pick-up and drop-off information on file for transportation. This information must be updated any time changes are made in a telephone number, babysitter, or a home address. It is very important to have an emergency contact person and his or her phone number for each child. This person should be located in the general vicinity of the student’s bus stop.
Alternate drop-off: The driver is only permitted to discharge students at the school or the designated drop-off address.
Private driveways or property: As a general rule Fairfax County Public Schools buses do not travel on private property or driveways. Contact the transportation office if you have a question.
Care and Supervision of Your Child
What happens if the parent does not meet the bus?
If your child is not old enough to go into the house without supervision, the child will not be released, even with permission from the parent. The supervision guidelines from Child Protective Services are general guidelines. In all cases Fairfax County regulations will take precedence over these guidelines.
- 0-7: A child may not be left unsupervised for any length of time.
- 8-10: A child may not be left alone for extended periods of time (longer than 1.5 hours) and only during the daylight and evening hours.
- 11-12: A child may not be left alone for extended periods of time (over 3.0 hours) but not late at night or in circumstances requiring inappropriate responsibility.
- 13-15: A child may be left alone if there are no emotional or medical problems and if the child is comfortable with the situation, but not overnight.
- 16-17: Children of this age may be left alone (in some cases, for up to two consecutive overnight periods).
Questions and Concerns
If parents have other questions or concerns regarding transportation, they may call the school principal or the Area Transportation Office.
Requesting an Exception for School Bus Services
TR 51: Guidelines for Requesting an Exception for School Bus Service
Used by parents to request a transportation exception from Transportation Services.
TR 52: Request for Exception To Ride A School Bus
Used by parents to request an exception to riding a school bus from Transportation Services.
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