Frequently Asked Questions about DPS Bus Transportation

  • The Durham Public Schools Transportation Department is here to help safely bring your child to and from school every day. We want to help you with your questions or concerns. 

    We operate our school bus transportation program under policies developed and implemented by the DPS Board of Education (policies 6400-6460) and the State Board of Education as well as state laws.

    Q: How long are students allowed to ride the school bus each way in Durham County?

    A: There is no state law regarding the length of a bus ride. DPS attempts to keep bus rides as short as possible, but different factors such as geography, traffic patterns and magnet program distances may affect travel time. Every year the DPS Transportation Department reviews bus routes.

    Q: The bus driver told me I am not allowed to get on the bus. Is that true?

    A: DPS district policy 6420 states that “the school bus driver shall permit no person to ride on the bus except as assigned by the principal.” Capacity and liability concerns generally limit bus riders to only those students, and state law makes the driver responsible for ensuring that only those assigned riders board the bus. 

    Q: Are students allowed to stand on the school bus or to sit in the aisles?

    A: Absolutely not. State Board of Education policy requires that seating be provided for each student on the bus and that standees are strictly prohibited. Further, each student must be completely seated in the school bus seat - with a padded seat back behind him and a padded seat back in front of him. The same policy requires that the capacity of the bus cannot be exceeded. Violations should be reported to our Transportation Department.

    Q: How is the capacity of a school bus determined?

    A: Nearly all school buses come equipped with 39 inch seats on either side of a center aisle. The largest buses in North Carolina are the “flat-nose” transit-style school buses that have 26 total seats. The smallest buses have 12 total seats. Most buses have either 22 or 24 seats. The rated capacity is posted on the front bulkhead of each school bus according to student grades. The maximum capacity for grades 9-12 is calculated as the number of seats times two (i.e. two students per seat). The maximum capacity for grades 6-8 is calculated as the number of seats times 2.5, where half of the seats would have two students and half would have three students. The maximum capacity for grades Kindergarten through 5 is calculated as the number of seats times 3 (i.e. three students per seat). These are MAXIMUM capacities and, while DPS may not exceed the rated capacity of the bus, we must also provide seating – within the seating compartment – for all students assigned to the bus, whether or not the assigned load reaches the maximum capacity.

    Q: My child’s bus stop has been moved from the location where it has been for several years. What can I do?

    A: We are required to establish a bus stop for each student within one mile of the student’s residence, but no closer than 0.2 miles unless the distance is shortened in the name of safety. If you have a concern, please contact the DPS Transportation Department. 

    Q: How does DPS receive transportation funding from the state?

    A: We receive a block grant of funding through the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, as its portion of the school transportation appropriation from the North Carolina General Assembly. We determine how those funds will be spent within state requirements. We receive a percentage of our actual prior-year expenditures according to a formula that assigns a “budget rating” which is, in part, a measure of efficiency. The fewer buses we operate and the lower the expenditures, the higher the efficiency and therefore our budget rating. We have a financial incentive to provide efficient service using the least number of buses necessary.

    Q: My child has special needs and can’t get to and from the bus stop. How can her needs be accommodated?

    A: A student with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) may have Transportation listed as a related service. Further, that IEP may require specialized equipment (e.g. wheelchair lift) or other accommodations so that the student can be safely transported to and from school. In such cases where there is an IEP, we are obligated to meet them by school bus or an alternative method, such as contracting with a third party. 

    Q: The bus won’t come in my private subdivision. What can I do?

    A: G.S. 115C-246(b) states that “unless road or other conditions make it inadvisable, public school buses shall be routed on state-maintained highways, municipal streets, or other streets with publicly dedicated right-of-way.” DPS District Policy 6400.2 states that “school buses shall be routed on state or city maintained main or primary roads and not onto side roads or into housing developments.” If you have a concern, please contact the DPS Transportation Department. 

    Q: I have been told that the school bus cannot come down my dead-end road. Why?

    A: DPS District Policy 6400 states that “overlapping, backtracking and unnecessary stops are to be eliminated.” State Board of Education policy states the following with regard to school bus routing:

    • Superintendents shall plan bus routes in a way designed to conserve fuel and to use buses efficiently.
    • A route may not deviate from a general path of direction for a distance of less than one-half mile and then return to the original path except for groups of 10 or more pupils, unescorted pupils in grades K-3 or special education pupils.
    • Unless safety factors require otherwise, superintendents may not plan bus stops closer together than 0.2 miles.

    Q: Why don’t school buses have seat belts?

    A: School buses afford students the safest form of transportation to and from school. This has been validated by federal crash testing and research by the National Academy of Sciences. School buses have to meet rigid federal construction standards for the sides and top of the bus, fuel tanks and inside of each bus. The thick padded seats and seat-backs provide a passive form of crash protection known as “compartmentalization.” This padding, combined with the placement of the seating area high above the impact zone (with most other vehicles), offers a protection that has resulted in an unmatched record of passenger safety.

    Especially for small students, lap belts without shoulder belts can be more harmful than helpful. Adding lap/shoulder belts is very expensive and evidence to date suggests that all but the youngest students are reluctant to wear them. 

    Q: My child is having a birthday party after school and I would like for her friends to ride the bus home with her. We can do that, right?

    A: This is a decision that rests with the principal and is based on availability of seating on the bus.  Our primary responsibility is to ensure that all students entitled to transportation have a bus assignment for their daily ride to and from school and that all bus assignments are done in a way as to provide seating for all students. We try to accommodate this type of request, but must do so on a space-available basis. 

    Q: I am disabled and unable to accompany my child to the bus stop each morning. Can the bus stop at my home?

    A: State law requires that the school bus be routed within one mile of your home, if the student lives 1.5 miles or more from school. Situations such as this are handled on a case-by-case basis by the DPS Transportation Department.

    Q: Are charter schools required to provide transportation to and from school?

    A: No. Charter schools are required to have a plan to ensure that transportation is not a barrier for any student; however, the school does not have to provide transportation for every student.