Frequently Asked Questions
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 (approximately 30 minutes), please call Transportation at 459-6728.
2. What should be done if there is a transportation-related problem after office hours?
We staff the Transportation Office from 6:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.
If there is a problem after these hours you can leave a message on our answering
service and we will return your call as soon as possible, normally within a 24 hour
period. If there is an extreme emergency, you can call the Shenandoah County
Dispatcher at 459-6100 and ask them to contact the Transportation Supervisor.
3. My child's bus is overcrowded. Can some children be placed on another bus?
School bus sizes are stated in terms of passenger capacity for elementary schoolaged
children. It is assumed that elementary school-aged children will ride three
per seat. Middle school students are assumed to ride two-three per seat. High
school students are assumed to ride two per seat. If the bus has 3 elementary
students, 2-3 middle students, or 2 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.
4. I see buses all the time with only a few children on them. What are they doing?
Shenandoah County Public Schools' buses make one run into and out of schools
each day. We currently carry over 5,568 students to school and bring them home
daily. On the majority of these runs, SCPS buses achieve a load factor of more
than 80%. However, we have many special programs that require that students be
transported considerable distances. When transporting students to these special
programs, the time length of the run sometimes makes it impossible to fully
utilize the capacity of the bus. Often, however, as the bus travels within the
school's attendance boundary it will stop and pick up additional students.
Examples of these special programs would be:
Governors School and Triplett Technical School that encompass multiple base
school boundaries and result in light loads due to the number of students involved
and the time and mileage to the centralized locations.
Alternative programs, vocational programs, alternative schools, and other
programs with limited enrollment and central location result in light loads.
Special Education Programs - Special education runs tend to be light loaded due
to the small number of children assigned to centers and the boundary can be
within and outside of our county.
Another reason is school boundaries. Some school boundaries cover wide land
areas that extend bus runs in miles and time resulting in less than capacity loads.
5. We live very far from the school and there is no bus stop near for my child. How do I arrange transportation?
The SCPS provides for transportation for all students living in excess of fourtenths
of a mile from school. Regardless of the distance, transportation will be
provided if there is no safe walking route. School bus stops are designed to be
within three-tenths of a mile for students from the residence where road
conditions and vehicle access allows. Call Transportation at 540.459.6728/33 to
establish a new bus stop. No school bus routes will be established on any road not
maintained by the city or state highway department. Regular education school bus
routes will not be established within a cul-de-sac or on a dead end roadway where
backing up will be required. No additional pupil stops will be established where
an existing pupil stop is within three-tenths of a mile for the requested location.
6. I can't see my child's bus stop from my house. How can I get the bus stop moved closer?
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. However, bus stops are typically designed to be within three-tenths of a
mile for all students and students will not be expected to walk to a bus stop if
there is an increased risk.
7. My child goes to a day care provider in an area with bus service. May my child ride the bus?
SCPS guidelines allow students to be transported to and from babysitters, we ask
that your please fill out the Transportation Change Request Form so that we can
ensure we provide you with the best possible delivery service. We will continue to
provide transportation on a space available basis to children attending day care
services in the school zone they attend.
8. My child is a special education student. To whom should I speak concerning their transportation?
The special needs transportation offices do not accept transportation requests over
the phone. Transportation arrangements and changes must be coordinated through
the Pupil Personnel Services Office or the administrative office at your child's
9. My child left a coat (glasses, instrument, retainer, books) on the bus. How does he get it back?
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 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
10. What are the different types of school buses?
Shenandoah County Public Schools use the conventional style school buses. The
Conventional Style school bus is the traditional style with the long forward hood.
The bus is equipped with 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.
In terms of bus sizes, the 64-passenger conventional buses are the ones that are
used to transport most students. We also have 77-passenger buses that will be
assigned based on the number of students on a route.
The smaller buses are 34-passenger buses. These are nominal sizes, though. Many
of these buses are equipped with wheelchair lifts. A single wheelchair position
requires the same space as two or three bench seats. Therefore, a lift-equipped bus
will carry far fewer passengers than its nominal size might indicate.
All of our buses are diesel-powered. Additionally, all of our buses are equipped
with two-way radios.
11. Why are school bus seats spaced so closely together?
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 is 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
12. Why aren't seat belts required in school buses?
Seat belts are not required in school buses because research by DOT and others
determined that compartmentalization was a better solution. 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.
13. Why are 39" seats in school buses rated for three children when they only will accommodate two?
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.
14. Do state regulations for school buses supersede federal requirements?
No. State laws do not supersede federal requirements. State regulations for school
buses can and usually do add requirements for safety. These requirements are
additional to the federal requirements.
15. Why are buses sometimes late?
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.
16. Why aren't buses always available for field trips?
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 at 8:15 until 2:45 p.m. and again after 4:00
p.m. This allows drivers to complete their morning and in many cases the
afternoon runs. 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. The priority will always be
transporting the students to and from school.
17. Why are spare replacement buses needed?
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. 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
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.
18. What is the definition of a school bus?
A school bus is a vehicle that is sold or introduced in interstate commerce for
purposes that include carrying students to and from school or related events, but
does not include a bus designed and sold for operation as a common carrier in
A school bus can be used to carry non-students, if local rules allow it, usually
with the requirement that school bus signs and warning lights not be used. But a
normal everyday transit bus or shuttle bus cannot be used to carry school children.
Such buses do not have any of dozens of safety features required on a school bus,
such as joint strength, roof strength or compartmentalized seating.
19. How can my child get picked up or dropped off at a day care provider's location?
If you want transportation to or from a day care provider's location, you should
inform the school administration your child attends. Transportation to day care
locations is provided within the attending school zone only. You are also
requested to complete a Transportation Change Request Form so that we can
ensure your child is delivered to a safe and secure location. We will work with the
administration in the school to ensure your child's transportation services are
20. How can I arrange to have my child ride a different bus home from school for one day?
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
21. How can a special needs child living inside a school's attendance zone be picked up at a regular school bus stop?
Transportation may be scheduled for a special needs child living inside a school's
attendance zone to be picked up with their peers at a regular education school bus
stop. The parent should call Transportation Services to voice their desire for this
service. If your child requires a lift equipped bus we will assign them to one of
our special education bus runs and provide door to door service. Parents should
call transportation services at 540.459.6728/33 to express their desire/need for this
22. Are school bus assistants required on school buses transporting special needs children?
There is no regulation requiring school bus assistants on school buses. The
assignment of school bus assistants is determined by the needs of the children
riding the school bus.