Johnson City Schools Foster Transportation Plan:
- The DCS will provide the school district with a notification form; school districts will develop a process using this form to identify which students in foster care require transportation to maintain educational stability.
- ESSA requires that school districts ensure a student’s educational stability when the student first enters foster care and whenever there is a change in the child’s living arrangement.
- The DCS must notify the school and school district of a student’s placement into foster care or a change in the child’s living arrangement as soon as possible.
- Should the child’s placement be outside of the school attendance boundary, a best interest determination will be made within five days to decide if the child will attend the school zoned for his or her foster care placement or continue to attend the school of origin. While the best interest determination is being made, the child is to remain in his or her school of origin. The district and DCS points of contact must ensure that interim transportation is provided to the student during this period.
- Based on the best interest determination outcome, a discussion about how to fulfill the child’s permanent transportation needs will follow.
- Methods of transportation and related costs are NOT to be considered when determining best interest.
- Document how transportation will be provided, arranged, and funded.
- When it is in the best interest of the child to remain in his or her school of origin, ESSA mandates that school districts provide transportation in a timely and cost-effective manner. Within five days of the best interest determination, the school district must arrange permanent transportation services.
- Written procedures should address the following:
- Pursuant to federal law, the school district must provide transportation to children in foster care, even if the school district does not offer transportation to students otherwise. The fact that a school district does not provide transportation for children who are not in foster care does not exempt the district from obligations to ensure transportation for children in foster care. This includes foster children attending public preschool.
- Other obligations: ESSA does not modify the school district’s separate obligations to provide transportation for:
- children in foster care who meet the definition of “homeless” under the McKinney-Vento Act; or
- children who have transportation written into their individualized education programs (IEPs) because of legitimate special education needs. Where a school district is obligated to provide transportation as part of the child’s IEP as a “related service” under the IDEA, this obligation is not altered by ESSA.
- While the school district arranges permanent transportation, the school district and DCS must ensure that interim transportation is in place for the child. The school district and DCS should work collaboratively to develop a transportation plan for the child. Interim transportation arrangements are meant to be short-term, only to be used for a maximum of 10 school days: five school days while the best interest determination is being made and five school days while the permanent transportation plan is being finalized.
- A school district must ensure that young children in foster care receive transportation to and from their public preschools of origin in a cost effective manner. Preschool students should not miss school due to not having transportation to and from their schools of origin. This only applies to students enrolled in public preschools at the time of their placement in foster care or when there is a change in the foster child’s living arrangement. If a school district cannot provide transportation to students in foster care who attend public preschool due to bussing limitations and laws, the school district and DCS should collaboratively arrange transportation for the child.
- Public preschool programs include early childhood education programs for children who have not started kindergarten. Public preschool is funded by tax dollars or other public funds and includes both preschool programs operated by the school district and funded through the school district. Children may attend preschool at a specific location or participate in a home-based program.
- Clarify the school district’s obligation to provide transportation when minimal or no “additional costs” will be incurred.
- The school district must provide transportation when it can be done at no “additional cost” (the difference between what a school district would otherwise spend to transport a student to his or her assigned school and the cost of transporting a child in foster care to his or her school of origin).
- The school district must provide transportation if it is available with no cost or minimal cost based on the school district’s existing procedures. The school district will need to examine the existing transportation options within the school district for a no-cost or minimal cost solution. Examples may include the following:
- Adding or modifying a stop to an existing bus route
- Dropping the child off at a school bus stop on the existing transportation system for the school of origin
- Using public transportation, if the child is of an appropriate age and has or is able to
acquire the skills to utilize such option
- Having foster parents transport the child to school
- Utilizing pre-existing bus routes or stops close to the new foster care placement that cross school district boundaries, such as bus routes for magnet schools or transportation for homeless students required by the McKinney-Vento Act
- Providing transportation under another entitlement for which the child is eligible, such as IDEA
- Document how “additional costs” will be addressed.
- The school district and DCS must outline procedures to specify how additional costs will be covered or shared. For school districts that do not calculate average cost of transportation per pupil, additional costs may be defined as are defined as the difference between what an LEA otherwise would spend to transport a student to his or her assigned school, and the cost of transporting a child in foster care to his or her school of origin (this is the definition given in the Federal Law).
- If the student’s transportation requires “additional costs” from the school district, the school district and DCS must determine the most cost effective strategy in each case. Considerations include:
i.Does the school district have other fiscal options to cover or share “additional costs”?
1.Federal guidance permits the use of Title I funds. Federal guidance also permits use of IDEA funds if the child has an IEP or McKinney-Vento funds if the child qualifies under McKinney-Vento.
- Can the DCS recover costs through Title IV-E maintenance dollars for this child’s transportation?
- What other options does the DCS have to cover or share “additional costs?”
- Could the DCS provide the youth or caretaker with bus passes or other public transportation vouchers?
- Could the DCS contract with a private transportation company to provide bus/van/car service?
- Can the school district and DCS divide the distance and share the transportation responsibilities? For example, could the DCS arrange for the child to be dropped off at a bus stop near the existing transportation system for the school district?
- Can the school district and DCS establish a standard division of responsibility based on common factors, as this may allow more efficient processing of individual cases? For example, if a child’s new living arrangement is within a certain mile radius of the school, the DCS is responsible for coordinating the child’s transportation to school. If the child is placed outside the certain mile radius of the school, the school district will implement an expedited process to address the child’s transportation needs and ensure continuity of educational services.
- Develop a dispute resolution process to address transportation issues.
- The school district and DCS should make every possible effort to reach an agreement to fund transportation. Both agencies must collaborate to ensure educational stability for children in foster care.
- To address situations in which local parties cannot agree, local procedures are to include
provisions to address how disputes will be resolved.
i.One possible option is for the school district and DCS to evenly share the unmet additional costs when no other cost-effective solution is available and all funding sources have been assessed and applied.
- Other Considerations: The school district and DCS should also address in advance any other potential issues that are likely to arise.
- Timelines for implementation
i.The school district should assess how quickly transportation from a child’s new placement to the school of origin can be put in place and identify any gap services required in the interim.
- There should be no delay if a student can be served by an existing bus route.
- Interim transportation must be arranged when a new bus route or other transportation provider is required.
- Duration and changes in transportation needs
- When the student remains in the school of origin, transportation to that school must be provided for the duration of the child’s time in foster care.
- The DCS will notify the school district within as soon as possible when there is a change in the child’s living arrangement that requires adjustment of transportation needs.
- iii.If a child exits foster care before the end of the school year, consideration should be given for having the student remain in his or her school until the end of the academic year or until a natural juncture in the year, such as the end of a semester or quarter, when possible in an effort to facilitate educational stability for the child.
- School activities beyond classes
i.School districts and the DCS should consider procedures related to transportation for extracurricular activities, such as summer education programs, and other school programs or activities that are part of the school experience.
- Coordination when other school districts are involved
i.When students are transported between school districts, cost sharing among those districts will need to be determined. Similar to their arrangement with the DCS, school districts should develop written procedures to address cost sharing agreements and include a default if resolution cannot be reached (e.g., the school districts will split costs evenly.)
- Preschool students within the school district
- If a school district offers public preschool education, the school district must meet the ESSA requirements for children in foster care in preschool. ESSA requires that schools ensure a child in foster care remains in their preschool of origin, unless a determination is made that is not in the child’s best interest. ESSA also requires that school districts provide transportation to the school of origin when necessary.
Public preschool programs include early childhood education programs for children who have not started kindergarten. Public preschool is funded by tax dollars or other public funds and includes both preschool programs operated by the school district and funded through the school district. Children may attend preschool at a specific location or participate in a home-based program.