Frequently Asked Questions
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Arlington Public Schools Transportation Services receives as many as 100 calls daily. Below is a list of frequently asked questions. If your questions are not answered here, please do not hesitate to contact us at 703-228-8670.
Who is eligible for bus transportation in Arlington?
Arlington Public Schools provides safe transportation to and from school for enrolled students living beyond a one-mile walking distance from elementary schools and a one and one-half mile walking distance from middle and high schools (property line to property line). To ask if your student is eligible for transportation services, please call your child's school.
How will I know if my child has been assigned for transportation?
Transportation Services mails letters to the parents of APS students who are eligible for bus transportation. The letter includes the child's bus route number, bus stop and pickup time. The lower portion of the letter includes a "voucher." A separate letter is mailed to children who live in the school "walk zone" and are not eligible to receive transportation services.
Bus riders need to tear off the "voucher" on their letter and carry it with them to present to the driver when boarding the bus. Bus transportation is available only for students who are eligible for transportation and have received a transportation "voucher" in the mail.
When will I learn my child's bus schedule for the next school year?
The bus route assignment letters and "walker" letters for the upcoming school year are generally mailed to families in mid-August. For the 2012-13 school years, families should receive their letters during the week of August 20.
How can I tell which bus is my child's bus route? Where do you post the route number on the bus?
Each school bus has its route number posted in a black box with white numbers (on the front passenger- side near the door). We use this number to identify the bus route.
This is my child's first year to ride on a school bus; is there anything I can do to help him/her prepare for this new experience?
We recommend that families practice walking with their child to the bus stop. Make sure that your students know the bus route numbers and have the voucher provided in the August Transportation Assignment Letter. You can also write the route number and stop location clearly on a note that is attached to their backpacks, OR try writing the bus route number and stop on a wristband so that they can carry the information with them easily without fear of losing it.
My child is 6 years old (or younger). What happens if I fail to meet the bus?
For a young child, not being met by a parent/guardian is often very frightening for the child. If a parent or his/her designee is not at the stop to meet the child, the bus driver will return a child age 6 or under to the school, time permitting. If the driver does not have time to return the child to the school at the end of the route, the child will remain on the bus until the driver's route allows time to return the student to his/her school.
In addition, drivers will return any student (from any grade) to school if the child does not feel safe exiting the bus. If the driver does not have time to return the child to his/her school at the end of the route, the child will remain on the bus until the driver has time to return the student to school.
Is the bus driver responsible for children until they get home in the afternoon?
The bus driver is responsible for children while they are actually riding on the bus. Parents or guardians are responsible for children's safely when they are on their way to or from the bus stop.
What is the procedure when I need to have a different person meet my child at the bus stop?
Only persons listed on the student's emergency care card are authorized to meet a child at the bus stop. If a different person needs to meet your child, please notify your school and provide his/her name and relationship. The school will forward this information to your school bus driver. Please ask persons meeting your child to have a picture ID with them when they meet the bus. The driver will not knowingly release a child without either a note from the school or by confirming that the individual has a proper ID.
What if my child needs to ride a different bus in the afternoon?
Many APS families often request changes, particularly for afternoon transportation, to accommodate childcare, after school activities or other special needs. We can accommodate your request if there is space available on that bus. We cannot create a new bus stop on any route; therefore, your child will be assigned to an existing stop on that bus route that is closest to your destination. Exceptions will be made on a case-by-case basis. If you need to request a change in the normal routing for your student, please contact the school office before August 31. As always, Transportation will do its best to meet your family's needs. You can also call the Transportation Call Center at 703-228-8670.
What if I need to request other adjustments for my child's transportation assignment?
Please contact your child's school to make your request. We will try to accommodate your request if there is space available on another bus that fits your needs. Again, we cannot create a new bus stop on any route; therefore, your child will be assigned to an existing stop on that bus route that is closest to your destination. Exceptions will be made on a case-by-case basis.
Can my child go home with another student?
For your child to ride home with another student in the afternoon, a written permission slip must be written, dated and signed by the parent or guardian and approved by school staff before the afternoon dismissal time. A pass must be issued, to permit the student to ride an alternative bus.
Does Arlington Public Schools offer special services for students with disabilities?
Arlington Public Schools provides specialized transportation for students with disabilities in accordance with the child's Individualized Education Program (IEP). If your child's needs change, please contact your school to have your child's transportation needs addressed.
Occasionally, students require special transportation because of a temporary disability. Please contact your school principal to discuss your child's needs and to complete the appropriate forms and 504 Plan to accommodate your child's needs.
What should I do if my child requires a special needs lift bus?
APS has lift buses to help students with this need. If your child requires a lift bus, please share this information with your school so that this information can be noted on your child's IEP. If your child has a temporary disability and has a 504 Plan, your school will include this information as part of the plan. In both cases, the school will notify Transportation Services to arrange for this service.
Sometimes, my child's bus is late. Why does this happen and what should I do?
Every day, we have situations arise that are beyond our drivers' control. These can include traffic accidents, driver absences, maintenance problems, lane closings and roadwork, weather delays, or even a late departure from school. Please be patient as the drivers make every effort to stay on schedule while being mindful of student safety.
What should I do if the bus is more than 30 minutes late on the return trip home?
We recommend that you contact your school to see if the bus was held at school or delayed. If the school staff members are unaware of any delay or departure, they contact Transportation and work with our staff to determine the cause.
Can you notify me about major bus delays?
One of the key benefits of our new Transportation system is that all students are identified in the student information system with their route number. When we learn about occurrences that may cause major delays, we now have the capability to send an APS School Talk message to families for students on a specific route to let you know about the delay. Please make sure the school has your most up-to-date email and contact information so you can receive these messages.
Are there delays during inclement weather?
Yes, as all of us know, rain or snow in our area almost always slows traffic. It is important that parents monitor weather conditions during inclement weather. Weather conditions can cause school buses to run behind schedule.
How can I find out if school is closed, delayed or has an early dismissal because of bad weather, emergencies or other conditions?
Whenever school officials decide to make any changes in school operations, including closing school, delaying school opening by two hours, or sending students home early, APS communicates these decisions through a variety of methods including:
- APS School Talk – emails, text messages and/or phone calls
- Toll-free Hotline recorded messages at 1-866-322-4277, in English or Spanish
- Messages on the APS home page at www.apsva.us
- Messages on Comcast Cable Channel 70, Verizon FiOS Channel 41
- Messages sent to all local radio and TV stations
Check the Student Handbook for detailed information about "Closings, Delays and Early Dismissals."
Why are students asked to arrive at the bus stop five minutes before the bus pickup time?
We ask students to arrive at their assigned bus stop at least five minutes prior to pick up time so that they are ready and waiting for the bus to arrive. This helps to ensure a faster loading time. It also ensures that they are there in case the time on their clock or watch differs slightly from the time for the driver.
My child's bus arrives later/earlier than I want. Can the time be changed?
All APS buses operate on a comprehensive schedule, completing two or three routes in the morning and again in the afternoon. This helps to ensure that the system operates safely, efficiently, while working to deliver students to school on time. Because of the number of students needing transportation, and to ensure effective scheduling, the overall bus schedules cannot be adjusted to accommodate an individual request.
My child's bus frequently arrives later than the scheduled pickup time. What causes the delays?
Bus routes are planned to run on a fairly set schedule. If your child's bus is running behind schedule, there could be uncontrollable factors that are affecting the pickup time. Sometimes children are not ready and waiting at earlier bus stops, which can cause the bus to run behind schedule on all future stops. This is another reason why we ask all children to be ready and waiting at their bus stops so we can minimize delays.
My child missed the bus. Can the bus come back to the bus stop?
Buses cannot return for students who missed the bus. Please be sure your child arrives at the designated bus stop at least five minutes ahead of schedule.
My child missed the bus at school this afternoon. Can the bus come back?
At most schools, the drivers receive a signal from school staff when they can depart after a sufficient time has been allowed for students to exit the school to board the buses. Sometimes students are held up at school for unforeseen reasons and miss their school bus. Once buses depart the school, they are not able to return to pick up any students who have missed their buses.
The bus drives right past my house. Why can't it stop at my house?
Bus stops are placed to allow the buses easy access and egress through neighborhoods while keeping safety a priority. In addition, adding bus stops causes further delays on our bus routes and extends the students' ride time. In the end, this means that bus routes would have to start earlier in the morning to arrive to school on time. Similarly, in the afternoon it would mean students arrive home later.
Is it possible for all of my children to sit together on the bus?
Yes, it is sometimes possible. If the children are in line together, they have a greater chance of finding seats together or near each other.
Does the bus driver have the right to assign seats on the bus?
The bus driver may assign seats as he/she feels necessary to maintain order and safety on the bus.
Who should I speak to about problems that occurred on my child's bus?
If there is an issue on the bus, please contact your child's school. If you have a concern about a bus driver, route or general questions, please call Transportation Services at 703-228-6640. You can also email Transportation at firstname.lastname@example.org
Another child is harassing or bullying my child while they are on the bus. What should I do?
Arlington Public Schools has a policy that specifically prohibits "bullying" at school, during school events and field trips, and on a school bus. The bus driver's main focus must be on operating the school bus safely. As a result, the majority of the driver's attention is focused on the road and traffic conditions, so he/she may not see or hear inappropriate behavior among the students on the bus when it occurs. Students who engage in bullying or harassing behaviors are subject to disciplinary action. Please report any problems to your child's school so that appropriate steps may be taken.
Are there consequences if a student misbehaves on the bus?
Yes. Bus drivers report problems to the student's school. Administrators follow the process outlined in the Arlington Public Schools policy for all disciplinary actions. Students who are otherwise eligible for transportation may be denied transportation services by school administrators when a student's conduct represents a threat to the safe operation of the school bus, to the student, or to others on the bus. Information about "Student Behavior and Disciplinary Responsibilities" is available in the APS Student Handbook.
The bus driver disciplined my child on the bus today. Does the driver have the right to do this?
The school bus driver (or attendant) is responsible for the safe operation of the bus. He/she should receive the same level of respect afforded to a classroom teacher, assistant or other school employee. When necessary, drivers or attendants may correct a student. In most cases, that resolves the problem. If the misconduct continues, the driver may complete a "conduct report" to notify the school of the event for further review and, if appropriate, disciplinary action.
What is a student conduct report?
A student conduct report is used to report a student who violates the safety rules on the bus that may cause harm to the student, to another student or to the public. This includes actions that distract the bus driver's attention from the roadway. If a student conduct report is completed for a student, the school staff members will contact the student's family if they need to speak to the parent or guardian as part of the disciplinary steps taken to resolve the problem.
Can a family member or other adult board a school bus at the bus stop or at school?
The safety of the children is always our priority. It is illegal for any unauthorized individual to stop or board a school bus. Please do not attempt to board a school bus along the route or at school.
I don't like the bus driver on my child's route. Can we request a different driver?
Bus drivers and attendants are professionally trained and supervised. We do not remove staff from routes without an investigation in accordance with our personnel policies and procedures. If you have a problem, please call Transportation Services at 703-228-6640. You can also email Transportation at email@example.com
My son/daughter used to have a driver that we really liked, but that driver is now on a different route. Can we get the driver back?
We recognize that students often bond and develop relationships with staff, and we try to have drivers and attendants remain on the same route for extended periods of time. However, in some cases, drivers or attendants may be transferred to a different route to support our countywide transportation needs.
I think my child's bus is overcrowded. How many children can ride a full-sized school bus?
Large school buses are designed to carry 77 elementary students with three children per seat and 52 middle and high school students with two students per seat. It is important that students place their book bags and large items or musical instruments in their laps or on the floor between their legs and the barrier in front.
My child has a cell phone. Can he/she give the phone to the driver to speak to me?
School Bus Drivers and Bus Attendants are not permitted to use a student's cell phone or to use a cell phone except in the case of emergency and the dispatch station cannot be reached.
Can students bring musical instruments or large objects with them on the bus?
Musical Instruments and large objects are permitted on the school bus as long as the student can carry the instrument or object on and off of the bus by him/herself. They must be placed in the student's lap or stored between the student's legs and the barrier in front of the student. Instruments or large objects cannot block the aisle. Large instruments such as drum kits, cellos and basses are too large to be transported on school buses safely. In an accident, these items can easily become a projectile and can injure a student. If you are unsure, please check with your child's school before bringing a large musical instrument or object to the bus stop.
How do I locate a lost item on a school bus?
If a driver finds an item on the bus, he/she will hold it until the following day. The student may ask the driver if his/her item was found on the bus. If it remains unclaimed, the driver will return it to the age-appropriate school.
If you contact Transportation Services, please provide us with a full description of the item. Often drivers are not able to inspect buses while they are on the road and will check for lost items at their next assignment. We recommend that personal items be stored in the child's backpack to help prevent losing items. Because electronic devices such as cell phones, tablets, iPods and games are very popular, the recovery rate is very low. We recommend that students store these items in a secure place such as their backpack while traveling to and from school.
I am interested in becoming a school bus driver. How can I apply?
Please apply online at www.apsva.us
and submit your five-year driving history. One of our staff members will contact you to discuss becoming part of our team.