September 2021 —
The MLO Minute: By Kimberly Caputo, Esq. and Jennifer Grobe, Esq. —
The School year has begun and parents in many Districts are experiencing late morning pickup for their children, very long routes, no afternoon drop off at home, or no transportation for children at all. The COVID 19 virus has played a role in school based transportation services and Districts are working to meet the challenges in several ways. For certain students, “transportation” to and from school is part of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and in this circumstance there are special considerations a family may want to consider when reviewing District options.
- Some Districts are “reimbursing” families if they provide transportation (this is usually at the IRS mileage reimbursement rate _ per mile)
- Some Districts are doubling up routes which can result in longer riders to/from school for student
- Some Districts are “prioritizing” certain students for routing
- Increasing hiring activities to attract more drivers
- Increasing staffing in administrative offices to address parent calls and concerns
- Seeking support at a State level through support from entities like the National Guard
- Some Districts are giving parents to “opt” out of transportation – For example, the School District of Philadelphia has introduced an “incentive program” where if parents agree to transport a student to AND from school, the District will offer up to $300.00 per month in a monthly stipend. This is called the PARENT FLAT RATE PROGRAM
If the family agrees to opt out of transportation for the AM route and assume responsibility for getting the student to school and the District adds the child to a pm route for transportation home, the family could receive a $150.00 per month stipend.
The application to make a Transportation Action Request through the PARENT FLAT RATE PROGRAM is available here.
Transportation is a related service under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and can include travel to and from school and between schools; travel in and around school buildings; and specialized equipment such as special or adapted buses, including small transport vehicles with fewer students, or a route that has a set length of time. Some students require adult support during the bus ride, and/or the ability to have access to water and /or a snack or calming objects during the ride. All the necessary components for successful transportation should be outlined in a student’s IEP.
Because each student’s needs are very unique and as transportation can (and should) be tailored to align to a student’s needs, even in the face of the current challenges, we would encourage families to consider their child’s needs and discuss with the IEP team any change to transportation including opting out from the service.
- Parents should remember that opting out places responsibility on them to get their child to school on time, regardless of weather or other circumstances including changes in work schedules, illness of family members or mechanical difficultly with the family car.
Philadelphia also offers SEPTA Student Fare Cards to students eligible for bus, van or cab service. The District is in discussion with SEPTA regarding providing fare cards to adults to accompany children on SEPTA and for families who do not own a vehicle or do not drive.
With a new school year, we appreciate there are families who are experiencing challenges and we are here to help. If you need support or feel you have not had a concern addressed, please do not hesitate to reach out for a free consultation.