Locations, Routes and Schedules
For a listing and location map of all public and non-public / parochial schools in St. Mary’s County, feel free to visit the following website: http://maryland.hometownlocator.com/features/cultural,class,School,scfips,24037.cfm According to the annual State Department of Education Fact Book 2014-2015, the State of Maryland's average cost for school transportation is $5.42 per route mile (equal to $812 per student). During this time, St. Mary’s Public Schools operational costs are reported at $3.98 per route mile ($966 per student). The St. Mary’s County Non-Public School Transportation System is a separate bus system from that of the Board of Education and operated at $3.39 per route mile or $1,428 per student. The Transportation Division is responsible for Non-Public student transportation, passenger safety, bus routing, bus driver training programs and arranging for qualified drivers. It is estimated that over 700,000 miles will be driven by our drivers this year! At present, there are 43 buses which transport between 1,600 and 1,900 students per year. The non-public school bus services are provided by eighteen (18) contractors who currently service eleven (11) parochial / private elementary schools and one high school as a part of this program to include the Service Locations and Bus Schedules listed above.
Current School Year Fee-Schedule:
Full-Time Student Rider: $750 per year / student
Half-Time Student Rider: $375 per year / student (*See Note)
Part-Time Student Rider: $187.50 per year / student (**See Note)
* Note: Half-time student riders are those students who ride the school bus either in the AM only, PM only or will only ride the school bus for one semester.
** Note: Part-time student riders are those students who ride the bus a total of less than one semester, regardless of the number of days or weeks that ridership is requested.
In 1941, the County, through the St. Mary’s County Code, enacted Public Law, Chapter 116-1 entitled "Bus Transportation". This law was established and specifically states that children who attend schools in St. Mary’s County, that do not receive state aid (non-public schools), and who live on or along or near to a public road in St. Mary's County, on which public school bus service is being provided, that they shall be entitled to non-public school bus transportation. In short, school transport vehicles shall operate only on public roadways, as listed for maintenance on the latest official State, County, or Town highway map(s). Exceptions for service onto private roads, will be made based on special circumstances and will be only on roads that are properly maintained. All exceptions must be approved by the Board of Education's Superintendent of Schools or his / her designee.
If there is a student whose family resides in St. Mary’s County, there is No Charge for using the non-public school transportation system. However, there is a $750 per student per year charge for all out-of-County residents based on the fee schedule determined for the current school year. For shorter durations of time, the fee may be prorated (ie for half a school year, the fee may be reduced by 50%). For extenuating circumstances and hardships, the fee may be waived in whole or in part, based upon review of a written request. Any questions regarding the Out-of-County fee may be obtained by dialing our Non-Public Schools Division at (301) 863-8400 x 1124.
Individual with Disabilities Education Act
A disabled child, whose parents choose to send to private school, is entitled to have made available the same services available to the child were he to attend public school as proscribed under federal regulations. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, a public entity may not operate a fixed-route system without paratransit or other special transportation services. The St. Mary’s County Non-Public School Transportation System makes reasonable accommodations to requests and provides services to persons with disabilities. A Request For Transportation must be completed and submitted to the Office either by mail or fax at (301) 866-6797. For parents requesting that a personal aide be authorized to ride a bus along with their child, the Transportation Division requires a formal background check be preformed (for the aide) and concurrence from the County's independent insurance provider for the contracted non-public school buses to ensure that the individual(s) is(are) adequately covered.
As parents, you are an important part of a total safety program for children who travel by school bus. Children need to learn to be safe pedestrians as they walk to and from the bus as well as to be safe riders when they are on the bus. Our obligation for the safe transportation of students and the general public is of critical importance to us. The Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) spot checks our inspections and is present during at least one of our three comprehensive inspections each year. Manufacturer's capacity rating for contractor buses includes room for three students per seat. We require background checks, finger prints, driving records, pre-employment physicals, and drug testing before allowing contractors to place their drivers "behind the wheel". The County carriers the liability insurance on these buses and all contractors are required to have the appropriate collision insurance. You can help by reviewing the simple safety tips on these links;
Selecting School Bus Stop Locations
School Bus Safety Presentation
Cellular Phone Use by Drivers
The St. Mary’s County DPW&T Transportation Division is aware that many states have passed regulations regarding the usage of cellular phones while driving. Although Maryland is not yet one of those states, we believe that the use of cellular phones while driving can be a distraction. Therefore, we have initiated the following guidelines:
STS and Non-Public School Bus Drivers must pull to the side of the road out of the traffic stream and be at a complete standstill before placing an out-going call or receiving an in-coming call.
The Drivers may not make outgoing personal or receive incoming personal calls while transporting clients.
The dispatchers and / or Transportation Office may, from time to time, find it necessary to contact the drivers. If the driver is not at a standstill and out of the traffic stream, the driver should then call the caller as soon as he/she is at a standstill and out of the traffic stream.
The Drivers are expected to have the bus’s mobile radio on and be available on the radio at all times.
SchoolPool Makes Carpooling Kids to School Easier
The Tri County Council for Southern Maryland and Commuter Connections is offering SchoolPool , a new (2012), free service to connect parents of children who attend the same school and are interested in sharing driving duties. SchoolPool can match parents who want to form bicycling and walking groups to school for their children. SchoolPool only shares the parents’ contact information in order to protect the safety of their children. Once parents are registered, they can call or email other parents participating in the service. The SchoolPool program was designed to help alleviate some of the traffic congestion in and around schools and make it easier for parents to get their children to and from school. Please review the SchoolPool brochure and for more information on how to register, please visit www.commuterconnections.org/schoolpool
Transportation Guidelines and Procedures
The Transportation Division has provided the following information to acquaint you with our guidelines and procedures related to the school bus routes and bus stops for non-public school bus transportation. Our primary goal is the safe transportation of students to and from school. It is also important that parents assume a scope of responsibility at the bus stop, including getting children to and from bus stops. The contractors utilized by the County to perform non-public school bus transportation services shall be qualified and must enter into a Contractor Services Agreement each year. A Parent / Student Handbook is also distributed by the bus divers to each family (via the student riding the bus) and contains more information about the program. Our Handbook is designed for the "print on both sides" option on most personal computers. Additional hard copies are available by contacting the Transportation Division at (301) 863-8400 x 1124.
Bus routes shall be planned to achieve maximum safety of operation with maximum economy within the limitations of rules and regulations governing transportation. Transportation services must also be efficient and cost effective.
1. Bus routes will not be extended or stops scheduled unless an eligible pupil would otherwise be required to walk in excess of ½ mile for elementary school (grades 1-8) and/or 1 mile for high school (grades 9-12), exceptions are cul-de-sacs, non-through streets and private property. This provision shall be used to reduce excessive time and miles traveled whenever possible and practical.
2. Routes are planned to keep individual riding distance and time to a practical minimum. In rural areas, between one (1) and one-and-a-half (1½) hours should be considered as the maximum riding and transfer time for a pupil going to or from a non-public school. The above time limitations are goals and are based on the farthest stop not being more than 6-10 miles from the school.
3. In establishing bus schedules, the objective is to arrange for buses to arrive at school no later than ten to fifteen (10-15) minutes before the scheduled beginning of classes. When taking students home, our contractor’s buses pick-up and transfer students at multiple schools and actual departure from the last school serviced may be as much (20) minutes beyond the scheduled end of class.
4. Bus routes are planned with a maximum of four (4) stops per mile whenever possible and practical. This provision may be altered in extreme safety situations. The number of stops should be limited as much as possible. Therefore, where several children from several homes can meet safely at a single point, it should be the only stop.
5. In accordance with the Code of St. Mary’s County Chapter 116 Section 2, the County Commissioners of St. Mary’s County levy and appropriate annually sufficient funds it deems desirable to establish new routes and to purchase additional buses for transportation to and from school of children attending schools not receiving state aid.
6. Transfer points will be used for buses picking up students from a geographic area for multiple schools. Transfer points are not considered bus stops. Students will remain on the bus until such time that the transfer bus is parked in their designated parking area(s) and is ready to accept the direct boarding of students. Students are not allowed into schools or businesses during this time.
7. Transportation service should be provided from a point on or along a public road that is nearest or most accessible to the students' home to a point nearest or most accessible to their respective school without changing or disrupting the existing bus route(s). The Commissioners of St. Mary's County are authorized to fund additional routes or purchase additional buses, if needed.
The two fundamental criteria used in determining bus routes and stops are safety and efficiency of scheduling.
1. Safety of routes/stops
The following includes excerpts from MSDE COMAR 13A.06.07, Student Transportation.
a. State laws related to school bus transportation must be met. Stops should be determined first by safety, then by guidelines. Four-lane highways and roads, where the most recent State Highway Administration Traffic Survey reported 15,000 or more cars per day, shall be routed to pick up on the side of the roadway where students reside.
b. Stops will not be established where traffic and/or other hazards may indicate a threat to the safety of the children as determined by the Transportation Manager. Stops should be located, whenever possible, to maximize the visibility of the stopped bus for approaching traffic.
c. Students are not typically scheduled to cross arterial and major collector roads to reach their bus stop.
d. Buses will typically not travel on County roads that have not yet been accepted into the County Highway maintenance system or into areas of construction.
e. Consistent pick-up and drop-off locations are desired. There may be different pick-up location than drop-off, but each should be the same every day.
f. Bus stops will be permanent whenever practical, allowing the public to become familiar with stop locations.
g. Unless it is a group or clustered bus stop, a designated person must meet all students at their stop who are under the age of 8. A group bus stop serves more than one family and there should be at least one designated person present or visible at the stop, unless all of the students are older than eight years of age.
h. Off-road loading zones shall be approved either by the Transportation Manager, the Maryland State Police, or the local Sheriff department in cooperation with the State Highway Administration when applicable. The higher the traffic volume, the more justification there is for using off-road loading zones.
i. In addition to the above, the Department also utilizes the 201 NTHTSA guidelines for Selecting School Bus Stop Locations.
2. Efficiency of Routes
a. Roads must be at least 18 feet wide.
b. Provide a location for change of bus direction with no backing preferred.
c. Should have adequate shoulders to allow the bus to pull off the roadway.
d. Be kept clear of snow, sleet, ice, vehicles and other obstructions that would prevent safe travel of school buses.
e. Children must be at the designated bus stop at least ten (10) minutes before the scheduled arrival time
f. Additional bus stops may not be granted where the efficiency of a route may be improved.
g. Non-Public School buses may not go into all subdivisions for student loading and unloading. If we granted all of the many requests for additional bus stops in subdivisions, it would have an enormous effect on the bus schedule and your student’s time on the bus. Therefore, additional stops are normally not provided even though the bus drives past your home. Contractor routes are reviewed and adjusted annually.
h. Generally, buses will not enter non-through streets and private property. Exceptions may be made if the bus needs to change direction and the street offers a safer means to turn around.
i. The order of loading and unloading of students on any given route is based on overall system efficiency. Typically, more remote / rural areas with fewer passengers are picked up first in the morning and dropped off last in the afternoon.
j. Routes may use cluster stops. Cluster stops are determined first for safety, then by the number of students and the length of time the bus is on a particular route.
New stop criteria
Student(s) must be better served by the addition of a new stop. The requested stop location must be along an established public school bus route and meet the minimum eligibility Transportation Guidelines (cited above).The new stop cannot interfere with scheduled transfer and arrival times at the respective school(s).Requests for new stops should be made by students who reside within a 10 mile radius of his/her school. Parent(s) and/or guardian(s) may be required to transport their student(s) to the nearest established bus stop. The new stop should not cause the total riding time for students to exceed the recommended one (1) hour. Parent(s) and/or guardian(s) may make other transportation arrangements for their children if they feel the riding time is excessive. The stop cannot be requested solely for the convenience of a student or his/her parent(s).If additional routes or buses are required to address a new stop(s), the Commissioners of St. Mary's County may provide the respective funding upon request.
How to request a stop change or new stop
Requests for changes/additions of bus stops or routes can come from a parent, guardian, principals, and/or a concerned member of the community. Stop changes or additions are not guaranteed to be able to be accommodated if insufficient notice is provided to the Transportation Division. Typically, no adjustments are made during the first two (2) weeks of school. This period is used to adjust the bus routes and make sure all students are assigned to a bus.
Requests for location changes or new stops should be made in writing at least one (1) week prior to the start of school.
Any request for a stop change or new stop should be faxed or e-mailed to the Non-Public School Transportation Office. In addition, a Request For Non-Public School Bus Transportation form is available and should be distributed during the registration process by each of the participating non-public schools.
All requests will be reviewed and a response will be given. This process may take up to two (2) weeks, depending on the number of requests submitted and the resources of the bus contractor. Appeals to the decision shall be made in writing to the Transportation Manager whose decision shall be final.
School's Role in Student Transportation
1. The local school administrators and County have concern for all of the items listed in this booklet, but parents have the legal responsibility for their children as they travel to and from school as pedestrians or as they travel to and from a school bus stop.
2. The responsibility of the school administrators and County begins when the children step on the school bus. This responsibility ceases at the end of the school day when the school bus departs the unloading area at the students' normal discharge point.
3. If it is anticipated that a field trip will be returning later than planned, it is the chaperone(s) and/or school administrator's responsibility to notify the parents.
4. Questions regarding walking to and from school should be discussed with the school principal first. If it is necessary to contact the County Transportation Division, Non-Public School Bus Supervisor, please call (301) 863-8400 x 1124.
Student’s Role On The Bus
The following School Bus Regulations are be posted in the front of each bus and will serve as notice to all new students and remind returning students who ride the Non-Public buses that they are to be observed at all times while riding the bus.
Bus Misconduct Notice
Bus misconduct reports are sent to the respective school to inform the school officials and parents of a disciplinary incident involving your student. Inappropriate student behavior may jeopardize the safety and well being of other students on the bus. All Bus Behavior Report (Exhibit 4) Forms documenting notices of misconduct must be signed by the parent and returned to the school. Guidelines for Discipline include:
1st Offense: Written Warning
2nd Offense: Two-Day Suspension
3rd Offense: Five-Day Suspension
4th Offense: Ten-Day Suspension
Note: Serious misconduct could result in an immediate suspension of riding privileges.
Remind your children that riding a school bus is a privilege. This privilege may be temporarily denied or permanently revoked for disobeying rules stated in the Student's Role section (above) or if misconduct of a student jeopardizes the safe operation of the school bus or the overall safety of the students riding the bus. To keep this program safe and successful, please be advised of the following:
Parents/Guardians are responsible for the safety of their children from the time the children leave home until they board the bus in the morning; and in the afternoon, from the time the bus departs from the unloading area until the children reach home.
Parents are responsible for ensuring their children leave home early enough to arrive at the designated school bus stop at least ten (10) minutes before the scheduled bus arrival time.
Parents/Guardians are responsible for selecting their children's walking routes to and from bus stops, schools and home. Parents/Guardians are responsible for providing supervision that is appropriate to the student's age, maturity, and conditions that exist on the walk route.
Parents should be aware of their liability for damages caused by their children. As children walk to and from the bus stop or school, and while they wait at the school bus stops, they must show consideration and respect for the property of others.
Parents/Guardians are responsible for transporting their children if, in their opinion, they deem the riding time excessive.
Make sure you instill basic safety awareness principles in your children.
Know your children's bus number and stop location and notify the Transportation Division of any changes in your address or phone number.
Review the bus rules and Parent / Student Handbook with your children. Our Handbook is designed for the "print on both sides" option on most personal computers. Additional hard copies are available by contacting the Transportation Division at (301) 863-8400 x 1124.
Parents/Guardians are responsible for listening to inclement weather and media announcements regarding the closing or delayed opening of schools.
Bus Drivers Role
Our most precious cargo, children For individuals interested in driving non-public school buses for the County, please review the attached School Bus Specifications, Bus Contractor Application (Exhibit 1) and Procedures for Selecting Bus Contractors. The bus driver plays an important and responsible role in every educational system. In most cases they are the first representative of the school system to meet the students in the morning and the last to see them at night. While the students are on the bus, their safety is in the driver's hands. Your bus drivers should be respected and appreciated as they are performing a difficult and necessary service. During the mass movement of students in school buses, part of the bus drivers' responsibilities includes
1. Explaining the rules to all students.
2. Enforcing the rules with all students.
3. Setting a good example.
4. Treating all students fairly, firmly, and in a friendly manner.
5. Correcting students individually, when at all possible.
6. Stopping the bus if necessary, to restore order.
7. Never using ridicule for correcting students.
8. Not picking on the “little” things.
9. Trying to greet each student by name.
10. Not venting personal; feelings on students.
Use of Public Transportation for Students
Federal transit laws and regulations place limitations on the use of public transportation to transport students to and from school and school-sponsored activities or trips in competition with private transportation providers. This Federal Transportation Brochure is intended to help transportation providers understand those limitations, as well as the permissible use of public transportation for school students.
School Bus Safety for Motorists
When driving in neighborhoods with school zones, watch for children traveling to school. They are unpredictable in their actions, and it is your responsibility to anticipate and prepare to react to what they may do.
Drive slowly: Watch for children walking in the street, especially if there are no sidewalks in the neighborhood.
Watch for children playing and gathering near school bus stops.
Be alert. Children arriving late for the bus may dart into the street without looking for traffic.
Learn and obey the school bus laws in your state.
Learn the flashing light system that school bus drivers use to alert motorists about stopping.
Yellow flashing lights mean the bus is preparing to stop and load or unload children. Motorists need to slow down and prepare to stop.
Red flashing lights and extended stop arm mean the bus has stopped and children are boarding or exiting the bus.
Motorists must come to a complete stop a safe distance from the bus and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the arm is retracted, and the bus begins moving before they start driving again.
Bus Accident Procedures
The following procedures provide for the identification of students, notification of parents and appropriate school personnel in the event of a non-public school contractor bus accident involving students.
The bus operator shall contact the Office of the Sheriff and request ambulance service, if necessary; and will notify the Transportation Manager as quickly as possible. The telephone number for the Emergency Operations Center is 911. If a student is injured, the Transportation Manager will notify the principal of the school; and if the principal cannot be reached, notify the parent of the nature of the accident, if possible.
All students involved in an accident shall be taken to the nearest hospital for medical evaluation if deemed necessary by the volunteer fire and rescue ambulance crew, Maryland State Police and/or Office of the Sheriff in consultation with the Transportation Manager. A school administrator or Transportation Manager shall remain at the hospital until a parent or designated legal guardian arrives for the student. The Transportation Manager will arrange for substitute buses to transport all students who were not injured to their homes or school. The Transportation Manager will coordinate drug testing of the bus operator as required and ensure that an accident report is completed within 24 hours of the incident.
Safety Seats and Seat Belts
Effective June 30, 2008, all children under age 8 must be secured in an appropriate restraint (unless they exempt out of the law by a height taller than 4'9" or weigh over 65 lbs.) such as a child safety seat or seat belt. The law is applicable to all vehicle registered as Class A (passenger type vehicles), Class E (trucks with a manufacture rated capacity of ¾ ton or less and gross vehicle weight of which does not exceed 7000 lbs), or Class M (multipurpose vehicles). Maryland law, under Transportation Article 13-932, classifies school buses and vehicles as Class H, which are not required to provide child safety seats and or/seat belts. It is strongly recommended that parents/ guardians of pre-school aged children arrange alternative means of transportation to school, either by personal vehicle or by small buses (under 10,000 lb GVW). Larger school buses, which use the concept of compartmentalization to protect children, are not made for pre-school aged children and will not provide adequate protection in a crash. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Guidelines for the Safe Transportation of Pre-School Age Children in School Buses does suggest that lap belts, tether anchorages and child restraint anchorage systems can be voluntarily installed in large school buses. Alternatively, the use of booster seats (for older children) require shoulder belts, which most "school buses" are not equipped with. Options for these buses are limited to the voluntary installation of higher harness weight child restraints, vests or harness systems (with cam wraps) or integrated seats.