Hybrid/In-Person Bus Transportation FAQ

Please contact your school about:

  • Locating a student on a bus
  • Requesting transportation for students with special needs
  • Making changes to residency that may change transportation needs
  • Inquiring about late buses
  • Notifying APS Transportation Services that you do not plan to use the bus.
  • Transportation wait list

Please Contact APS Transportation Services about:

  • Locating a lost item
  • Notifying transportation that a student who rides a special education bus will not ride that day.
  • Concerns with drivers or attendants
  • 703-228-8670 or transportation@apsva.us

Updated February 8 2021

Due to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) COVID-19 guidelines, APS general education buses will be able to carry a maximum of 11 students at a time when schools reopen (up to 5 for special education buses), and families may be assigned to a different bus stop than they are used to.

Only those eligible students who were assigned to hybrid learning as of FEBRUARY 5, 2021 and whose families told us they will use the bus will receive a bus assignment and they may only ride only the bus route to which they are assigned. Due to the 11 student per bus constraint, routing  has to be very precise.  For that reason, routing is static – as of a point in time.  We will plan to re-optimize one or two times over the next few months, which may change routes and schedules.

During COVID-19 return to school, APS Transportation Services cannot make any of the following accommodations:

  • Bus Stop location change requests
  • Bus route or schedule changes
  • Two bus stops for dual custody situations. A student’s primary address will be used for routing.
  • Riding the bus to anywhere other than the home stop location.

Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

Why are these changes happening?
Why are we transporting only 11 (or 5 for special education buses) students per bus?
How do I know if my student will receive bus transportation this school year?
How will I know if my child has been assigned bus transportation?
What if my child has not been assigned transportation but is in the bus eligibility zone?
We live in an expanded walk zone. What resources are available to support my student’s change from riding the school bus to walking to school?
When will I learn my child’s bus schedule for the hybrid return to school?
Why is my stop different than my usual stop?

Riding the Bus

Will my student have a health screening before boarding the bus?
Will students be required to wear a mask on the bus?
Is it possible for all of my children to sit together on the bus?
Will students have assigned seats on the bus?
Is additional ventilation being provided on the bus?
How can I tell which bus is my student’s bus route? Where do you post the route number on the bus?
What if we do not plan to use the bus every day we are in school?
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?
What happens when students arrive at school?  Will they mix with students coming on foot, bike and car, who may not have been screened?
My child is in PreK, K or grade 1. What happens if I fail to meet the bus at the end of the day?
Is the bus driver responsible for children until they get home in the afternoon?
What is the procedure when I need to have a different person meet my student at the bus stop?
My student’s bus arrives later/earlier than I want. Can the time be changed?
What if my student needs to ride a different bus in the afternoon?
What if I need to request other adjustments for my student’s transportation assignment?
Can my student go home with another student on the bus?

Transportation for Students with Disabilities

Does Arlington Public Schools offer special services for students with disabilities?
What should I do if my student requires a special needs lift bus?

Bus Arrival Times

Sometimes, my student’s bus is late. Why does this happen and what should I do?
Why are students asked to arrive at the bus stop ten minutes before the bus pickup time?
What should I do if the bus is more than 30 minutes late on the return trip home?
Are there delays during inclement weather?
How can I find out if school is closed, delayed or has an early dismissal because of bad weather, emergencies or other conditions?

Reporting Problems that Occur on the Bus

Who should I speak to about problems that occurred on my student’s bus?
Another student is harassing or bullying my student while they are on the bus. What should I do?



Why are these changes happening? Due to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, APS general education buses will be able to carry a maximum of only 11 students at a time (smaller special education buses may only carry up to 5 students) when schools reopen.  Routes that carry a heavy load of bus riders during normal times will require multiple buses on some routes to school that were previously served by just one bus. This is a big change from what we usually carry and means that we must make some adjustments to where and how we pick up bus riders. We must take this step so we can focus our bus service on routes that are farthest from school and allow them to move safely and efficiently between stops and school.  To support these changes, we have expanded walk zones for 16 elementary schools.  You can check if you reside in an expanded walk zone.

Additionally, this year our bus fleet is limited to approximately 105 buses available for general education busing. To maximize efficiency and on-time arrivals, scheduling for this year must be very precise in terms of student bus assignments and routing.  As a result, families may be assigned to a different bus stop than they are used to, and the stop may be farther from their home.  As in all school years, students may only ride the bus route to which they are assigned.  Finally, under normal conditions, we know that many students who are eligible for the bus do not actually ride the bus. This year/while COVID restrictions are in place, APS will route only those eligible students whose families told us they will use the bus (based on responses to the Instructional Model survey sent to families this past Fall).  This approach will ensure that we do not reserve seats for students who do not intend to ride the bus and that all limited seats are filled.

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Why are we transporting only 11 (or 5 for special education buses) students per bus? The  CDC recommends schools “create distance between children on school buses (e.g., seat children one child per row, skip rows) when possible.”  Our students will sit one per row, alternating sides. Arlington’s Department of Health also recommends this limited seating capacity.  Our local transit providers, ART and Metrobus, are also limiting their capacity to 12 passengers at any one time.

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How do I know if my student will receive bus transportation this school year? The following factors contribute to whether a student receives bus transportation this year: 1) are they eligible for bus service under APS eligibility rules (see School Board Transportation Policy E-5.1); 2) did the student’s family indicate in the Fall 2020 APS Instructional Model Survey that they would use the bus if eligible.  Only students whose families indicated in the Fall survey that they will use the bus will be routed. 3) was the student designated for hybrid learning as of February 5, 2021. To determine if your child is eligible for bus transportation, there are two places to look: 1), your school’s ‘normal’ bus eligibility map, found here: https://www.apsva.us/transportation-services/bus-eligbility-zones/ 2) For elementary students only,  check the expanded walk zone page to determine whether your school is on the list of expanded walk zones and whether your bus service is affected. If you live in an expanded walk zone, bus service will not be provided.   You may also call your child’s school to ask about bus eligibility.

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How will I know if my child has been assigned bus transportation? Transportation information will be made available only through ParentVue (https://www.apsva.us/family-access-center/); APS will not mail bus assignment letters.  If you have difficulty accessing ParentVue, please call your child’s school directly and they can give you this information.

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What if my child has not been assigned transportation but is in the bus eligibility zone? If a family has not received transportation because they did not indicate they would use it on the Fall 2020 Instructional Model survey, they may request it through their school.  The school can make the request to APS Transportation Services; however, APS can offer bus transportation only if there is room on a bus.

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We live in an expanded walk zone. What resources are available to support my student’s change from riding the school bus to walking to school? APS offers multiple resources to support walking (and biking) to school, including:  School-specific Navigation Maps;  Safe Routes to School resources for walking/biking; and Safe Routes to School Walking School Bus and Bike Train resources.For specific questions and resources to support safe walking and biking to school, contact APS Safe Routes to School Coordinator.

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When will I learn my child’s bus schedule for the hybrid return to school? We are routing students and buses now. The bus route assignments will be posted as soon as possible prior to your child’s first day back to school.  Please check ParentVue periodically.  APS will send out a SchoolTalk when the routes are posted.

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Why is my stop different than my usual stop? To route all students who wished to return to school under constrained bus capacity (11 students/bus), APS Transportation Services re-distributed students among nearby stops.  During this time some students may have to walk farther to a bus stop than before. For resources on safe walking to/from bus stops, visit APS Safe Routes to School.

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Will my student have a health screening before boarding the bus? Students will require a health screening at the bus stop.  Every bus will have an attendant on the bus who will have a roster of students on the route and ask each student (and accompanying parent, if applicable) screening questions before they board and take their temperature.  Students who do not pass the health screening may not board the bus.  Parents/guardians of elementary students are strongly encouraged to accompany their child to the bus stop and wait until their student’s health screening is complete and they have boarded the bus before departing.  Otherwise, families should have a plan in case the student does not pass the screening and must return home.Students/families should wear a mask and maintain a six foot physical distance from each other at the bus stop.

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Will students be required to wear a mask on the bus? Students are expected to arrive at the stop wearing a mask and must wear one on the bus and upon arrival at school.

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Is it possible for all of my children to sit together on the bus? Under current conditions, students may only sit in designated seats and must sit one to a seat.  While we recognize that students who live together constitute a ‘bubble,’ we cannot maintain required distances between students in other seats when there is more than one student per seat.

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Will students have assigned seats on the bus? This school year, students must sit in unmarked seats to ensure distancing.  For elementary routes, older students will be instructed to sit in the back, younger students will be asked to sit in the front.

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Is additional ventilation being provided on the bus? All windows on the bus will be open; how open depends on the weather. Students should dress warmly in winter months because bus windows will remain open.

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How can I tell which bus is my student’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.

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What if we do not plan to use the bus every day we are in school? Because we have such limited bus capacity, if you do not plan to use the bus every day, we ask that you withdraw from bus service.

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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? While this will be an unusual introduction to the bus, your student will still be met with friendly faces, happy to see and help them.  We recommend that families practice walking with their child to the bus stop. Make sure that your students know the bus route numbers. You can also write the route number and stop location clearly on a note that is attached to or included in 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.We also recommend you review screening practices with your child, so they know what to expect, and get them used to wearing their mask and physical distancing at the bus stop.

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What happens when students arrive at school?  Will they mix with students coming on foot, bike and car, who may not have been screened? Each school has developed a modified arrival and dismissal plan to use under current conditions. Pre-screened students will enter separate doors than students who must be screened at the school door.  Since bus riders will be screened before boarding the bus, they will enter through a door designated for pre-screened students.  For the most part, these doors are the same as they are under normal operating conditions.  Your school will communicate the details of their modified arrival and dismissal plan.

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My child is in PreK, K or grade 1. What happens if I fail to meet the bus at the end of the day? For a young student, not being met by a parent/guardian can be very frightening. If a parent or his/her designee is not at the stop to meet a student who is in preK, kindergarten or grade 1, the bus driver will return the student  to the school at the end of the bus run for that school.  (see Policy Implementation Procedures E-5.1 PIP-1, pg. 2) Of course this extra run will make all bus runs after that one late, and drivers unable to meet schedules, so we ask  parents/guardians of students in this age group to have plans in place to ensure their student is met at the bus stop at the end of the day.In addition, drivers will return any student (from any grade) to school if the student does not feel safe exiting the bus. The student will remain on the bus until the end of the route when the driver is able to return the student to his/her school.

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Is the bus driver responsible for children until they get home in the afternoon? The bus driver is responsible for students while they are actually riding on the bus. Parents or guardians are responsible for student safety when they are on their way to or from the bus stop and while waiting at the bus stop.  Please keep this in mind in the morning when students will be screened at the bus stop.

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What is the procedure when I need to have a different person meet my student at the bus stop? Only persons listed on the student’s emergency care card are authorized to meet a student at the bus stop. If a different person needs to meet your student, please notify your school and provide his/her name and relationship. The school will forward this information to APS Transportation Services, then on to the school bus driver. Please ask anyone meeting your student to have a picture ID with them when they meet the bus. The driver will not knowingly release a student without either seeing a note from the school or before confirming that the individual has a proper ID.

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My student’s bus arrives later/earlier than I want. Can the time be changed? Due to the extreme circumstances surrounding bus service delivery during this period and the fact that buses may need to make several runs to a school to accommodate the limited bus capacity and ensure the bus arrives before the start of the school day, Transportation Services cannot adjust pick up times.  The routes are highly choreographed and one small change could cause a ripple effect to the entire system that impacts the entire school day.

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What if my student needs to ride a different bus in the afternoon? Due to the extreme circumstances and social distancing requirements surrounding bus service delivery during this period, students must ride their assigned bus to their home bus stop.

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What if I need to request other adjustments for my student’s transportation assignment? Due to the extreme circumstances surrounding bus service delivery during this period, APS Transportation services cannot accommodate any changes to a student’s stop assignment, unless associated with a change in residence.  Any such changes should be directed to your student’s school, who will contact Transportation Services on your behalf.

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Can my student go home with another student on the bus? Due to the extreme circumstances surrounding bus service delivery during this period, students must ride to their home bus stop.

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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 student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP). If your student’s needs change, please contact your school to have your student’s transportation needs addressed.  Once transmitted to the Transportation office, it may take up to 7 business days to assign your student to a route.  Due to extreme routing conditions during this time, Transportation Services must determine where there is room on a route.  If there are more than 5 students assigned to a special education bus, a bus may need to loop back to pick up a student.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.

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What should I do if my student requires a special needs lift bus? APS has lift buses to help students with this need. If your student requires a lift bus, please share this information with your school so that this information can be noted on your student’s IEP. If your student 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 this service.

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Sometimes, my student’s bus is late. Why does this happen and what should I do? Under normal conditions, 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.Under current operating conditions, our drivers will be driving new routes to accommodate the 11 students per bus and to address fleet limitations.  It will take time for them to get used to their routes.  Please be patient as the drivers make every effort to stay on schedule while being mindful of student safety.  We ask families to arrive 10 minutes before their scheduled pick up time and wait at least 10 minutes after; potentially longer as we get used to new routes in the first weeks back to school.

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Why are students asked to arrive at the bus stop ten minutes before the bus pickup time? We ask students to arrive at their assigned bus stop at least ten 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.   Since students will be screened at the bus stop, having students there waiting will help speed up the process.

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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 will contact Transportation Services and work with our staff to determine the cause and report back to you.

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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 families monitor weather conditions during inclement weather. Weather conditions can cause school buses to run behind schedule.

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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 703-228-4277, 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
  • Social Media – facebook || Instagram

Check the APS Student Handbook for detailed information about “Closings, Delays and Early Dismissals.”

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Who should I speak to about problems that occurred on my student’s bus? If there is an issue on the bus, please contact your student’s school. If you have a concern about a bus driver or attendant, please call Transportation Services at 703-228-6640. You can also email Transportation at transportation@apsva.us.

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Another student is harassing or bullying my student 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. Because the bus driver’s main focus must be on operating the school bus safely, the majority of the driver’s attention is focused on the road and traffic conditions. As a result, the driver may not see or hear inappropriate behavior among the students on the bus when it occurs. Please report any problems to your child’s school so that appropriate steps may be taken. Keep in mind that students who engage in bullying or harassing behaviors are subject to disciplinary action.

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