OLR Research Report

February 25, 2008




By: Judith Lohman, Chief Analyst

You asked for information about the state law and requirements for school transportation. You were especially interested in whether school districts have flexibility to schedule school buses and routes based on ridership.

The law requires boards of education to furnish, by transportation or otherwise, school accommodations so that each child five years of age and over and under 21 who has not graduated from high school or vocational school may attend public school (CGS 10-186a). The law further states that each board of education must provide each child who is of school age and residing in the district with the opportunity to attend public school and provide for the transportation of children wherever transportation is “reasonable and desirable” (CGS 10-220a). A parent, guardian, surrogate parent, emancipated minor, or student of eligible age is entitled to a hearing before the board of education when a school accommodation, such as transportation, is denied.

School boards have the authority to create their own transportation policies within the confines of the law, for instance, determining what constitutes a hazardous route or setting maximum walking distances. The State Department of Education (SDE) issues guidelines for district policies, but they are not mandatory.

Attorney Ron Harris of the SDE confirms that districts, in their discretion, may scale back the number of buses or routes if they find that it is prudent to do so. The law does not require a bus-stop or seat for every student attending school in the district. A district could eliminate bus service for any student who is issued a school parking permit, for example, or whose parent states that he will drive the student to school every day. It could also require that such students or parents notify the district if circumstances change.

Although the law allows districts to take ridership into account when establishing transportation policies, a district's logistics, geographical configuration, and transportation contracts may limit its ability to adjust school bus routes and school bus sizes. Although fewer high school students may ride school buses, districts nevertheless may need a certain number of buses or bus seats to transport elementary and middle school students. Harris recommends that specific transportation issues pertaining to individual districts be discussed with local school boards and school administrators.