Transportation of Nonpublic and Community School Students

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DATE: July 8, 2020

TO: Superintendents of City, Local and Exempted Village School Districts

FROM: Paolo DeMaria, State Superintendent of Public Instruction

RE: Transportation of Nonpublic and Community School Students

As districts begin to finalize plans for the Reset and Restart of school in the fall, the transportation of all eligible students to and from school becomes a critical consideration for school leaders. Public school districts must plan for the transportation of all eligible students living within the district boundaries who attend district schools, chartered nonpublic schools and community schools located within the boundaries of the district.

Each year with the start of school, the Ohio Department of Education receives a significant number of complaints related to compliance with the pupil transportation requirements of state law. This situation stands to be exacerbated in light of the present circumstances related to reopening of schools in the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Traditional public schools are legally responsible for the transportation of not only their own students, but eligible students who reside in the district and who attend community schools and chartered nonpublic schools. Nothing in state law allows a school district to prioritize the needs of its own students over the needs of community school or chartered nonpublic school students. Even so, we have already heard from some community schools and nonpublic schools who believe they are being treated with lesser consideration for their students’ transportation needs.

In the interest of collaborative and shared decision making, the Department strongly recommends districts meet with all impacted school officials including chartered nonpublic school and community school leaders, as well as Joint Vocational School District leaders in a proactive manner when considering decisions related to transportation. This can help ensure that there is a shared understanding of the approaches being considered to ensure that ALL of Ohio’s students entitled to receive transportation service are treated in compliance with the law. We expect ongoing and proactive communication to be a common practice and to include collaborative, solution-driven discussions.

We are also encouraging chartered nonpublic and community school leaders to reach out to districts in a good faith effort to keep all lines of communication open. In particular, nonpublic schools and community schools should make a deliberate and proactive effort to communicate changes to start and end times, calendars, and locations well in advance with the public school districts. Significant advance notice should be given, in recognition of the challenges of designing and implementing routing modifications. 

One option available to districts is to declare a student impractical to transport. This should only be used in exceptional circumstances on a case-by-case basis, and in strict compliance with the procedure (and due process requirements) in law. We recommend that districts work with their legal counsel to ensure appropriate practices are being implemented in accordance with statutory regulations. 

The following points are important considerations in discussions relative to transportation:

  • Services to Students: Each district must determine eligibility for transportation for each student who is a resident of the district, regardless of the school setting. Districts cannot simply refuse transportation services to a set of students by virtue of their enrollment at non-district schools.
  • Plans: Districts need to have specific and firm plans for meeting the needs of all students they are required to transport – which includes community school and chartered nonpublic school students. Districts cannot impose requirements on nonpublic or community schools in terms of providing staff support or incurring other expenses to meet the district’s obligations. If the plan is to contract with other transportation services, contracts need to be in place.
  • Consistency: Districts must be consistent in the determination of qualifying parameters. For example, if using the distance from a school for which high school students will be transported as a qualifying parameter, districts cannot use one distance for district students and a different distance for community and nonpublic school students. While districts may use different modes of transportation, the mode selected cannot be based simply on the type of school attended.
  • Destination: Transportation must be to and from the community or chartered nonpublic school.
  • Students with Disabilities: Students with disabilities are entitled to be transported the same as students without disabilities, whether to a public district school, a community school, or a chartered nonpublic school. Additionally, specific transportation requirements may apply on an individual basis for students with disabilities.
  • Schools in Session: Districts are required to provide transportation to chartered nonpublic and community school students whenever they are open, regardless of whether the public district is open or closed (weekends are excluded). In the event of a full or partial school district or school building closure, transportation of public, chartered nonpublic and community school students may be deemed unsafe and therefore a district would not transport any students.
  • Impracticality Determination: If appropriate, the determination of impracticality, and payments in lieu of transportation, must be made on a student-by-student basis adhering to the criteria in state law (Ohio Revised Code section 3327.02) for each student. Due process must be followed. The law requires the school district to provide transportation for the pupil from the time the parent, guardian, or other person in charge of the pupil requests mediation pursuant to the statute, until the matter is resolved.
  • Collaboration: It is important and essential to be in close communication with community schools and nonpublic schools about transportation – the earlier, the better. We should be operating under the “no surprises” rule and endeavoring to meet the needs of all students. 

Your cooperation with this request is very much appreciated. If you have any questions about the requirements of law, you can contact