Related: See EWSD Transportation Policy
Section I: Eligibility & Services
Per the school district’s policy, where it is reasonable and necessary to enable a student entitled or required to attend an elementary or a secondary school within the Essex Westford School District (EWSD), the School District will furnish transportation to and from school on public roads to students, particularly our youngest and most vulnerable, who do not reside within the designated walking zones. Except where mandated by federal and state law, the provision of transportation is a privilege and it is not required or mandated for most students.
Eligible Riders are:
Resident students in grades K-12 enrolled in Essex Westford School District schools or enrolled by EWSD in other selected area schools.
A. People approved by the administration for clearly stated reasons (e.g., chaperons, coaches, aides, monitors, etc.).
Students who live within the area known as "Essex Town" will be eligible for transport to the following schools: Essex Elementary, Founders Memorial, Essex Middle, Essex High School, Center for Technology, Essex.
Students who live within the area known as "City of Essex Junction" will be eligible for transport to the following schools: Hiawatha, Summit Street, Thomas Fleming, Albert D. Lawton.
Students who live within the area of Westford Town will be eligible for transport to the following schools: Westford School, Essex High School, Center for Technology, Essex.
Families may request transportation to an EWSD school outside of their area from the superintendent. Approval of requests will be based on the independent and final decision of the superintendent, and may be based on factors such as closeness to an existing route serving the school and available seating. If transportation is granted to an EWSD School outside of their area, it will be only for one year. Families must request this exception each year.
Non-Resident (Tuition) Student Transportation
Transportation for non-resident students may only be provided by action of the EWSD school board on the recommendation of the Superintendent, or designee, where the number of non-resident students geographically would make it cost effective. Transportation for non-resident students will be regularly evaluated and may be discontinued at the conclusion of any school year, to take effect the following school year.
Extra Co-Curricular Transportation
Schools must provide an authorized coach, chaperone, or staff to ride on all trips to help monitor and remind students of behavior norms, including keeping the bus free of trash. Exceptions to having an adult ride along may only be made by mutual agreement, in advance, of the coach / activity adviser and contractor for intra-district trips.
Students are required to ride the bus to/from all events for which the school provides transportation. Exceptions for alternative transportation must be requested in writing by the student’s parent/guardian, and must be approved by the athletics/activities director or coach/advisor in advance. Only a responsible adult may provide transportation. While on the bus, students are expected to adhere to the rules of the bus driver and bus company, and to pick up all trash before exiting the bus. School rules are in effect during all transportation times.
The Transportation Department will provide service for students who have transportation listed as a related service in their IEP in a way that tries not to waste driver or aide effort, vehicles, or fuel while doing our best to match least restrictive environment considerations.
The District will comply with McKinney-Vento requirements and partner with other school districts to ensure the safe and appropriate transportation to-and-from school.
Section II: Operating Practices
The goal of the Transportation Department is to create a behavior management system that combines with and supports behavior management and socio-emotional learning in the classrooms, while providing students with a consistent set of behavior norms on the bus throughout their entire EWSD career.
For student conduct, the bus is an extension of the classroom. Drivers and bus aides are the leaders on the bus, and play an important role modeling and reinforcing behavior norms. EWSD provides behavior management training to all transportation contractors and employees who work on buses.
Bus rules (or community behavior norms) will be posted by the driver before the first day of the school year. Drivers will take time during the first week of school to explain bus rules to all students, and remind them periodically throughout the year.
The District is responsible for monitoring student behavior while students are on the bus. Students are expected to keep themselves and others safe, to respect other students and to respect the transportation equipment. Students who do not follow the rules on the bus will be subject to disciplinary action. This includes, but is not limited to: striking another student; throwing objects; damaging bus seats, putting arms or heads out of bus windows, inappropriate/disrespectful language, standing in or blocking the aisles, or failure to comply with the bus driver’s directions. Parents and/or students may be liable for costs resulting from actions that cause damage.
A Prevention-Intervention-Consequences model is used for behavior management. Prevention is the driver or aide making students aware of the rules. Intervention is used by the driver or bus aide to reinforce rules and norms when they are broken. Examples of this could be stopping the bus, or having a student change seats. If students continue to break the rules, or if behavior is severe enough, drivers or bus aides will complete a bus conduct report and submit it to school administrators, who will work with the student and may assign the student Consequences. School administrators may contact families to support this process. Depending on the severity or number of infractions, transportation privileges may be suspended for a short period of time or for the remainder of the year. Parents are responsible for arranging alternate transportation for their child if this occurs. We ask parents/guardians to cooperate with the school when informed of a problem.
The Transportation Department will help exchange bus conduct reports and follow-up communication between drivers, contractors, and school behavior management staff. The Transportation Department will maintain archives of bus conduct reports.
Cameras and Video Recordings
Most buses have video cameras to make sure EWSD has access to recordings related to student behavior and/or motorists violating the school bus red light system. Parents will not be allowed to view video recordings based on federal student privacy laws. EWSD will not share video recordings with any outside parties not directly involved in the transport or care of students, excepting law enforcement. EWSD reserves the right to request parent permission in order to use specific videos for training purposes.
Student Seating Assignments
All students in grades K-5 will be assigned a seat by the bus driver in the front of the vehicle. These assignments will be posted by the driver by the third week of school. Students, families, and school staff may provide input on seating assignments for drivers to think about. Students in grades 6-8 will be seated in the middle of the bus without specific seating assignments. Students in grades 9-12 will be seated at the rear of the bus without specific seating assignments.
Specific seat assignments for grades 6-12 are used on an as-needed basis decided by school administrators and drivers.
School administrators may request a change in seating arrangements in response to disciplinary issues. Drivers will work within these requests to figure out seating plans, keeping in mind there may be requests from many schools to manage.
Permission slips from parents and approval from the school are required for any single-day changes to normal drop-off/pick-up points. Please send written notice to the front office staff (Office Assistant, Office Manager, Admin Assistant, or Registrar) at your school, with as much advance notice as possible.
Students are allowed only 1 regularly scheduled alternate pickup / dropoff address. Alternate addresses must be within the service area for your student's school of attendance. Please note automated call notifications are not currently available for alternate address stops.
Permanent address changes should be coordinated through front office staff (Office Assistant, Office Manager, Admin Assistant, or Registrar) at your school. These staff will update the student information database, and coordinate with the Transportation Department on any busing needs.
Pickup and Dropoff for Kindergarten and First Grade
Students in Grades K-1 must be accompanied to and picked up from the bus stop by a parent or guardian, or another individual authorized in writing. If an authorized individual is NOT present for a drop-off, K-1 students will remain on the bus, and be returned to EWSD staff at the school to be picked up by parents. Families will be notified via phone call. Drivers will not leave the student at the school unattended. Older siblings will remain with the kindergartener or first grader.
General Service Bus Route Ridership Guidelines
Students should be at their bus stop 5 minutes before the scheduled arrival time. The bus is not required to wait for students.
The first days of school, traffic, weather, or other circumstances will cause delays.
When it appears that the bus will be delayed by more than 15 minutes, the District will send an automated call to the designated parent and emergency phone numbers for students by bus route notifying them of the delay, and a reason if it’s known.
Students should dress for the weather.
Select a spot to wait for the bus where your child can see the bus coming and be seen by the Driver.
In low light it’s helpful for students to have reflective clothing or signal the driver with a lighted device like a flashlight, blinker, or illuminated handheld electronic device.
Students are accountable for their behavior while going to and from bus stops and while they are waiting for the bus. Parents are expected to handle any behavior difficulties which may be encountered at bus stops. Thank you to the parents, neighbors and older siblings who wait at bus stops and help keep students safe at bus stops.
Students with special needs riding General Service buses will not have transportation listed as a related service so they will be provided stop-to-school and school-to-stop service.
Specialized Transportation Bus Route Ridership Guidelines
Pickup and Dropoff Locations
Drivers and Aides will not escort students between their front door, bus, and classroom unless specifically outlined in the IEP.
District buses and contractors will not travel into private driveways.
In circumstances where the nature or condition of a street make it inaccessible to a bus, arranging an alternate pick up / drop off point may be necessary, and will be coordinated with the family by the dispatcher or Director of Transportation.
Pickup and Dropoff Times
The District will create bus schedules and communicate with families regarding pickup and dropoff times prior to the start of the school year.
If modifications are necessary throughout the year, the District will notify the family via email up to 24 hours before, or phone / voicemail no later than 2:30 pm the school day before the change.
Students should be ready to board the bus within a “window” 10 minutes before their scheduled pickup time, and be prepared to wait as much as 15 minutes after the scheduled time.
When it appears that the bus will be delayed by more than 15 minutes, the district will call the primary parent/guardian phone # and leave a message if possible. If not possible, they will attempt to contact the first parent/guardian emergency phone # as well. .
If a bus arrives within the “window” of ten minutes before or fifteen minutes after the scheduled time and the student does not board immediately, the driver will contact dispatch via radio. If the dispatcher is not also driving a vehicle, they will call the primary contact number listed for the student and leave a message if possible stating the date and time. The vehicle may depart for it’s next stop after waiting a minimum of three minutes.
For students who require a family member to be home at drop-off, these same procedures will be followed. If an approved caregiver is not home to receive the student, they will remain on the bus, and be returned to EWSD staff at the school, if no staff is available to receive the student at school, the student will return to the bus garage and wait with transportation staff to be picked up by parents. Drivers will not leave the student unattended. The dispatcher will contact school staff and family to notify them.
The safest place for any student on a bus is in the seat. If it is possible for a student to transfer to the seat, it is recommended that they do so. Seatbelts, 5-point harnesses, and other safety restraint systems can be used here.
WC-19 is a voluntary industry standard for designing, testing, and labeling a wheelchair used as a seat in a motor vehicle certified as “transit-ready”. It is highly recommended that if it is necessary for a student to ride in a mobility device on the bus, that device be WC19 compliant.
EWSD Aides will perform all wheelchair securements utilizing a minimum of four points secured to the floor of the vehicle, and the lap belt and shoulder restraint securing to the vehicle.
The lap belt or harness of a mobility device shall not be considered to be sufficient unless specified in the student’s IEP.
Will be assigned to bus routes as defined by IEPS as follows:
When specifically required by the student's IEP.
As a guideline, when five students requiring equipment are riding the bus at one time. This may be changed at the Supervisor's discretion based on safety and student needs.
It is preferred that Bus Aides be assigned to all buses moving students in wheelchairs. However, this may be changed based on safety, student need, staff availability, and budget limitations.
The Transportation Department will collect critical information from Case Managers to support administrators, bus drivers, and bus aides in the provision of services to special needs students. This information will be kept confidential.
Section III: System Design
Time and Distance Guidelines
In accordance with Transportation Policy C3, administration establishes the following time and distance guidelines for travel to and from school. Resources permitting, the District will strive to meet these guidelines for every student. Efficiency and safety are both considerations, and this does mean students may have to walk to a designated intersection to help all students arrive at school on time. This procedure establishes guidelines only. This procedure should not be interpreted as an absolute maximum by District staff or any other stakeholder.
Walk to School Maximum +/- *
Walk to Stop
Maximum +/- **
Earliest AM arrival Maximum
Wait for PM bus
Maximum ride time
0.5 mile path
0.5 mile path
30 minutes prior to start
15 minutes after the end of the day
1.0 mile path
0.5 mile path
45 minutes prior to start
45 minutes after the end of the day
1.5 mile path
0.75 mile path
60 minutes prior to start
60 minutes after end of day
*Each school will have an established walking zone. If safe pedestrian travel is possible, students living within the walking zone will NOT be eligible for transportation.
**Outside of the walking zones, door-to-door transport will only be available where pedestrian travel is too dangerous; otherwise designated stops will be used.
Establishment of Routes, Stops, and Times
The District and contractors will decide the number of bus drivers they expect to start the year with in mid-July, and then work with Contractors to develop bus routes through the summer. Bus route information will be published on the District transportation website with a sign-up form no later than August 10th of each year. Parents will also be notified via email and phone call when bus routes and the sign-up are available.
Because students in grades K-5 are still developing the motor, cognitive, and behavioral skills to make consistent, safe traveling decisions, the District’s preference is same-side drop-off and pick-up for these students. If the design of a route also allows an opposite-side stop option, Parents or guardians who desire their students to cross the road (e.g. for timing or other reasons) must request it in writing. It is highly recommended to families that these stops be supervised by a responsible adult.
Route adjustments may be necessary during the school year. In recognition that changing busing schedules has a resulting effect across our entire community, the District will strive to make a single adjustment, only if necessary, in October.
Notification of route or stop changes after the initial August posting will be e-mailed to affected families and posted as an update on the District and school website.
Utilization of Public Transit
The District believes that using public transportation is a life skill, an environmentally conscious choice, and a wise use of taxpayer resources. The District is committed to allowing all students to travel free of charge to-and-from school via Green Mountain Transit.
GMT will be the busing option for EHS and CTE students living within 0.75 miles of these local public bus routes.
While our K-8 students have access to yellow school buses, public transportation allows students more flexibility of schedule. Both EMS and ADL are located on GMT's #10.
Public transportation information can be found at Ridegmt.com.
Google maps bus/train icon can also be used as an interactive public transportation trip planning tool.
All students are required to be signed-up by families in order to use District-provided bus routes (no registration is required for use of public transit). The transportation department staff will email families when students have been added to a bus route. Each year in late July or early August, there will be a two-week sign-up period after initial routes are posted. Students who are signed up during this time will be guaranteed to be assigned to a bus route for the first day of school. Families may add or change student transportation sign-ups at any time during the year using the same form. Sign-ups occurring later in the school year are added to routes in the order they are received. Every effort will be made to finalize transportation and communicate to families in a timely manner based on demands on the department.
District policy says the Administration is responsible for deciding how services may be changed and/or reduced if not enough drivers or buses are available. Here’s how the district may make these determinations depending on the factors involved:
Cancelations of services (one-time or on a regular schedule)
Combine routes (extending length and duration of routes)
Expand/Adjust walk-to-school zones
Increase zones to be served by public transportation
Reduce transportation provided to resident high school students
Reduce transportation provided to other resident students at other schools and grade levels
Reduce transportation provided for tuition students which can be reallocated to serve resident students
School Bell Time Management
School times are a critical consideration in the safety, efficiency, and effectiveness of the District’s overall transportation system. The department appreciates that school times have implications well beyond just transportation services and any change can be highly disruptive to parents, staff, and the public. Therefore, it is in the intent of the department to support and inform EWSD administration in their consideration of any bell time changes.
Section IV: Records & Reporting
Student Privacy & Confidentiality
School bus contractors shall have procedures in place to ensure that personally identifiable and sensitive student information is not improperly released. In the absence of established and validated procedures, the contractor shall adopt procedures developed by EWSD.
The Transportation Director will maintain the following for all EWSD specialized service drivers, vehicles, and routes:
Drug and Alcohol program records
Copies of DOT physicals
Copy of current driver's license, front and back
Initial 3-year driving record, all subsequent re-checks
Commendations and complaints
Records of vehicle pre-trip inspections
Documentation indicating all students are participating in emergency evacuations twice a year
The Transportation Department will maintain an accident log, and files comprising reporting information from contractors and self-performed transportation.
The Transportation Department will maintain records of behavior referrals by school and route.
In accordance with Policy C3, the Transportation Director shall supply the following information annually to the Superintendent by August 1:
Average number of daily students transported based on available ridership surveys for the current year
Cost of transportation for the year
The Transportation Director will prepare an annual report as to the performance of the transportation system including:
Number of routes operated
Number of accidents, number with injury
Number of behavior reports (bus conduct reports), broken down by school and route
Cancelations/Modifications due to staffing
Generalized bus drivers
Specialized bus drivers
General bus aides
Specialized bus aides
Section V: Safety & Training
Transportation Staff Training
Mandatory training for all EWSD and contracted employees will be conducted a minimum of twice per year, once prior to the start of the school year in August, and again in January.
All EWSD drivers will receive the following training before entering service.
Defensive Driving training
Inclement Weather driving
EWSD will provide refresher training every two years for returning drivers.
EWSD recognizes a robust safety program is essential to preventing and responding to emergencies, and providing quality transportation services to our families.
Each bus route, and school not served by regular school bus routes shall conduct bus evacuation drills twice per year. Drills will be scheduled and documented by the Transportation Department. Drills will be conducted by Drivers.
Drivers will report red light violations immediately to dispatch via radio, providing as much information as possible: incident location, license plate number, vehicle make, model, color of vehicle, and description of driver. Reports and video recordings, when available, will be shared with law enforcement.
EWSD Self-Performed Accident Procedures
The District will follow internal accident procedures. Families will be notified in the event their student is involved in an accident.
EWSD shall require all new school buses serving EWSD (self-performed and contracted) to be equipped with stop-arm camera systems capable of providing video and still images at high enough resolution to determine license plate numbers. Videos of red-light violations will be forwarded to law enforcement. EWSD will work proactively with our community partners to raise awareness, hold violators accountable, and reduce school bus stop light violations.
Related: Printable District Transportation Procedures (PDF, opens in a new window)