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2001 Opinions

Date:   September 4, 2001
Prepared By:   Margaret O'Sullivan Parker
Phone:   (850) 488-7707
Suncom:   278-7707
Opinion No.:   01-20
Staff Contact:   Charlie Hood
MEMORANDUM OPINION
TO: Mr. Frank Kruppenbacher, General Counsel
Orange County Public Schools
FROM: James A. Robinson, General Counsel
SUBJECT: Two-mile Limit for Providing School Bus Service to Students
RE: Your Letter of August 24, 2001

QUESTION PRESENTED: : How is the two-mile limit for providing school bus service determined?

CONCLUSION: Any distance not more than two (2) miles between the home and school or one and one-half (1 1/2) miles between the home and the assigned bus stop.

DISCUSSION: In 1992 the Department of Education issued an advisory letter to the Palm Beach school district stating that the two mile limit for determining the eligibility for students to receive school bus services shall be measured from the point of demarcation between public street and private property. As an example, the letter stated that if a mobile home park occupies several acres, the two miles is measured from the entrance to the mobile home park. In the same year, the Division of Administrative Hearings issued a Final Order in Case No. 92-0550-RX making a similar conclusion.

The standard for determining the reasonable walking distance cited in both the letter and the order was set forth in Rule 6A-3.001(3), Florida Administrative Code (1992):
A reasonable walking distance for any student who is not physically handicapped is any distance not more than two (2) miles between the home and school or one and one half (1 1/2) miles between the home and the assigned school bus stop. Such distance shall be measured from the closest pedestrian entry point of the assigned school building or to the assigned bus stop. The District shall determine the shortest pedestrian route whether or not it is accessible to motor vehicle traffic.

As your letter acknowledges, that rule was later amended to clarify the definition of "closest pedestrian entry point." Rule 6A-3.001(3), Florida Administrative Code (2001) now reads:

A reasonable walking distance for any student who is not otherwise eligible for transportation pursuant to Section 236.083, Florida Statutes, is any distance not more than two (2) miles between the home and school or one and one-half (1 1/2) miles between the home and the assigned bus stop. Such distance shall be measured from the closest pedestrian entry point of the property where the student resides to the closest pedestrian entry point of the assigned school building or to the assigned bus stop. The pedestrian entry point of the residence shall be where private property meets the public right-of-way. The district shall determine the shortest pedestrian route whether or not it is accessible to motor vehicle traffic. (Emphasis added)

Because the amendment to the rule reflects the contents of the 1992 letter and Final Order, those documents remain valid. Therefore, with respect to residents of large apartment and condominium complexes and gated communities, the closest pedestrian entry point should be determined at the point where the boundary of the private property meets the right-of-way, rather than a point within the boundary of the private property.

Even if the residences in question are considered to be within the two-mile zone, the walking conditions may be considered to be "hazardous" as defined in Section 234.021, Florida Statutes. If a parent requests review of a walking condition, subsection (2) stipulates an inspection by district, sheriff, local government and safety council representatives. If the inspection reveals a hazardous walking condition, state funds would be allocated for the transportation of the students subjected to those hazards.

The safety of school children is an issue of paramount concern for the Commissioner of Education. Please let me know if this office or the Department's Office of School Transportation management may provide further assistance on this issue. The staff familiar with Transportation issues is always available to assist districts and parents, and can be reached at (850) 488-4405.

cc: Charlie Hood, Ronnie McCallister, Office of School Transportation

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