A new Maryland bill could offer more flexibility to student transporters when transporting vulnerable populations, or those in rural hard-to-reach areas.
House Bill 72, which passed the House on March 16, authorizes county boards of education to provide transportation to and from school for select students using a vehicle other than a school bus. It also allows school districts to contract with a provider that uses non-school bus transportation.
The Code of Maryland Regulations currently only permits the use of school buses and taxicabs to transport students to or from school or school-related activities.
The new legislation states that non-school bus transportation can be provided when a school vehicle cannot reasonably be provided for preschool-age students, students with disabilities, homeless youth, children in foster care, students without access to school buses, students in nonpublic school placement, or students in dual enrollment programs, work programs or other off-campus educational programs.
The Maryland State Department of Education, in consultation with county boards of education and the state Motor Vehicle Administration, would be required to adopt regulations governing minimum vehicle and driver safety standards.
Current law allows school systems to seek a waiver from the state superintendent to use alternative vehicles, though the approval does not permit transportation to and from school.
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The Dispatch reported that Wicomico County Public Schools in Salisbury, Maryland, requested a waiver from the Maryland State Department of Education to transport students protected under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act for the past five years. However, because the waiver doesn’t allow for home-to-school transportation, students are dropped off at a bus stop in their attendance area. WCPS is reportedly in support of the proposed state legislation.
Meanwhile, Todd Watkins the director of transportation for Montgomery County Public Schools in Rockville, Maryland, and STN’s reigning Transportation Director of the Year, said that his district plans on continuing to use only school buses for all of its transportation services.
If passed, the bill would take effect on July 1.