Frequently Asked Questions
The Office of Pupil Transportation receives many calls daily. Below is a list of frequently asked questions. If your questions are not answered here, please do not hesitate to contact us via the online form, email at email@example.com or at 703-461-4169.
UPDATE: In June 2019, the School Board approved changes to the walk zone policy for high school students.
Starting in September 2019, all high school students will have to walk a maximum of 1.5 miles no matter where they live.
Previously, the distance was measured as a radius drawn around T.C. Williams King Street or Minnie Howard campuses. The changes will mean that the distance will now be measured as an actual walking distance to school using GIS data. Parents may review suggested walk paths using tools such as Google Maps.
The changes are designed to ensure equity among all students. Previously, some students had to walk further than an actual mile-and-a-half due to the way the walk zone was calculated.
Students whose route to school requires them to cross busy main roads or has other hazards will still be eligible for a bus.
All high school students also may ride the DASH buses for free using their student ID, so if your child carries a large instrument to school, consider catching the DASH bus instead.
All students will be provided their bus stop information by mail before they start school in the fall.
FAQ Regarding Transportation in General
- Who is eligible for bus transportation in the City of Alexandria?
- How will I know if my child has been assigned for transportation?
- When will I learn my child's bus schedule for the next school year?
- How can I tell which bus is my child's bus route? Where do you post the route number on the bus?
- This is my child's first year to ride on a school bus; is there anything I can do to help him/her prepare for this new experience?
- My child is 6 years old (or younger). What happens if I fail to meet the bus?
- Is the bus driver responsible for children until they get home in the afternoon?
- What is the procedure when I need to have a different person meet my child at the bus stop?
- What if my child needs to ride a different bus in the afternoon?
- What if I need to request other adjustments for my child's transportation assignment?
- Can my child go home with another student?
- Does ACPS offer special services for students with disabilities?
- What should I do if my child requires a special needs lift bus?
- Sometimes, my child's bus is late. Why does this happen and what should I do?
- What should I do if the bus is more than 30 minutes late on the return trip home?
- Can you notify me about major bus delays?
- Are there delays during inclement weather?
- How can I find out if school is closed, delayed or has an early dismissal because of bad weather, emergencies or other conditions?
- Why are students asked to arrive at the bus stop five minutes before the bus pickup time?
- My child's bus arrives later/earlier than I want. Can the time be changed?
- My child's bus frequently arrives later than the scheduled pickup time. What causes the delays?
- My child missed the bus this morning. Can the bus come back to the bus stop?
- My child missed the bus at school this afternoon. Can the bus come back?
- The bus drives right past my house. Why can't it stop at my house?
- Is it possible for all of my children to sit together on the bus?
- Does the bus driver have the right to assign seats on the bus?
- With whom should I speak about problems that occurred on my child's bus?
- Another child is harassing or bullying my child on the bus. What should I do?
- Are there consequences if a student misbehaves on the bus?
- The bus driver disciplined my child on the bus today. Does the driver have the right to do this?
- What is a student conduct report?
- Can a family member or other adult board a school bus at the bus stop or at school?
- I don't like the bus driver on my child's route. Can we request a different driver?
- My son/daughter used to have a driver that we really liked, but that driver is now on a different route. Can we get the driver back?
- I think my child's bus is overcrowded. How many children can ride a full-sized school bus?
- My child has a cell phone. Can he/she give the phone to the driver to speak to me?
- Can students bring musical instruments or large objects with them on the bus?
- How do I locate a lost item on a school bus?
- I am interested in becoming a school bus driver. How can I apply?
- I witnessed a problem with a bus driver's driving. How do I report this incident to ACPS?
Who is eligible for bus transportation in the City of Alexandria?
ACPS provides safe transportation to and from school for enrolled students living beyond a one-mile walking distance from elementary and middle schools and a one and one-half mile walking distance from high schools. To check if your student is eligible for transportation services, please call your child's school. You can also contact the Department of Transportation. (rev. 4/2018)
How will I know if my child has been assigned for transportation?
Your child's school mails schedules to the parents of ACPS students who are eligible for bus transportation. Your letter includes your child's bus route number, bus stop and pickup time.
When will I learn my child's bus schedule for the next school year?
The bus route assignment letters for the upcoming school year are generally mailed to families in mid-August.
How can I tell which bus is my child's bus route? Where do you post the route number on the bus?
Each school bus displays its bus number on the side, front and rear of the vehicle. We use this number to identify the bus route.
This is my child's first year to ride on a school bus; is there anything I can do to help him/her prepare for this new experience?
We recommend that families practice walking with their children to their assigned bus stops. Make sure that your students know their bus route numbers. You can also write the route number and stop location clearly on a note that is attached to a backpack, or write the bus route number and stop on a wristband so that the child can carry the information easily without fear of losing it.
My child is 6 years old (or younger). What happens if I fail to meet the bus?
For a young child, not being met by a parent/guardian is often very frightening for the child. If a parent or his/her designee is not at the stop to meet the child, the bus driver will return a child age 6 or younger to the school. In addition, drivers will return any student (from any grade) to school if the child does not feel safe exiting the bus.
Is the bus driver responsible for children until they get home in the afternoon?
The bus driver is responsible for children while they are actually riding on the bus. Parents or guardians are responsible for children's safety when they are on their way to or from the bus stop.
What is the procedure when I need to have a different person meet my child at the bus stop?
Only persons listed on the student's transportation form are authorized to meet a child at the bus stop. If a different person needs to meet your child, please complete the "Alternate Authorized Persons for Kindergarten/Special Education" release form and send it to your child's school by noon. The school will forward this information to the transportation department.
What if my child needs to ride a different bus in the afternoon?
Many ACPS families often request changes, particularly for afternoon transportation, to accommodate child care, after-school activities or other special needs. We can accommodate your request if there is space available on that bus. We cannot create a new bus stop on any route; therefore, your child will be assigned to an existing stop on that bus route that is closest to your requested destination. If you need to request a change in the normal routing for your student, please contact the school office before noon. As always, the Department of Transportation will do its best to meet your family's needs.
What if I need to request other adjustments for my child's transportation assignment?
Please contact your child's school to make your request. We will try to accommodate your request if there is space available on another bus that fits your needs. Again, we cannot create a new bus stop on any route; therefore, your child will be assigned to an existing stop on that bus route that is closest to your requested destination.
Can my child go home with another student?
For your child to ride home with another student in the afternoon, a permission slip must be written, dated and signed by the parent or guardian and approved by school staff before the afternoon dismissal time. The school will forward your request to the Department of Transportation, which will notify the drivers.
Does ACPS offer special services for students with disabilities?
ACPS provides specialized transportation for any student with a disability in accordance with the child's Individualized Education Program (IEP). If your child's needs change, please contact your school to have your child's transportation needs addressed. Occasionally, a student requires special transportation because of a temporary disability. Please contact your school principal to discuss your child's needs and to complete the appropriate forms and a 504 Plan to accommodate your child's needs.
What should I do if my child requires a special needs lift bus?
ACPS has lift buses to help students with this need. If your child requires a lift bus, please share this information with your school so that this information can be noted on your child's IEP. If your child has a temporary disability and has a 504 Plan, your school will include this information as part of the plan. In both cases, the school will notify the Department of Transportation to arrange for this service.
Sometimes, my child's bus is late. Why does this happen and what should I do?
Every day, situations arise that are beyond our drivers' control. These can include traffic accidents, driver absences, maintenance problems, lane closings and roadwork, weather delays or even a late departure from school. Please be patient, as the drivers make every effort to stay on schedule while being mindful of student safety.
What should I do if the bus is more than 30 minutes late on the return trip home?
We recommend that you contact your school to see if the bus was held at school or delayed. If the school staff members are unaware of any delay or departure, they contact the Department of Transportation and work with our staff to determine the cause. You can also contact our department directly at 703-461-4169.
Can you notify me about major bus delays?
When we learn about occurrences that may cause major delays, we notify the school immediately. You can either call your school or our department (703-461-4169) for information.
Are there delays during inclement weather?
Yes, as all of us know, rain or snow in our area almost always slows traffic. Parents should monitor weather conditions during inclement weather and anticipate that school buses may run behind schedule.
How can I find out if school is closed, delayed or has an early dismissal because of bad weather, emergencies or other conditions?
Whenever school officials decide to make any changes in school operations, including closing school, delaying school opening by two hours or sending students home early, ACPS communicates these decisions through a variety of methods. Check the ACPS Family Handbook for detailed information about closings, delays and early dismissals, and review the ACPS emergency announcements page.
Why are students asked to arrive at the bus stop five to 10 minutes before the bus pickup time?
We ask students to arrive at their assigned bus stop at least five to 10 minutes prior to pickup time so that they are ready and waiting for the bus to arrive. This helps to ensure a faster loading time. It also ensures that they are there in case the times on their clocks or watches differ slightly from the time for the driver.
My child's bus arrives later/earlier than I want. Can the time be changed?
All ACPS buses operate on a comprehensive schedule, completing two routes in the morning and again in the afternoon. This helps to ensure that the system operates safely and efficiently while working to deliver students to school safely and on time. Because of the number of students needing transportation, and to ensure effective scheduling, the overall bus schedules cannot be adjusted to accommodate an individual request.
My child's bus frequently arrives later than the scheduled pickup time. What causes the delays?
Bus routes are planned to run on a set schedule. If your child's bus is running behind schedule, there could be uncontrollable factors that are affecting the pickup time. Sometimes children are not ready and waiting at earlier bus stops, which can cause the bus to run behind schedule on all future stops. This is another reason why we ask all children to be ready and waiting at their bus stops so we can minimize delays.
My child missed the bus. Can the bus come back to the bus stop?
A bus cannot return for students who missed the bus. Please be sure your child arrives at the designated bus stop at least five to 10 minutes ahead of schedule.
My child missed the bus at school this afternoon. Can the bus come back?
At most schools, the drivers receive a signal from school staff when they can depart after a sufficient time has been allowed for students to exit the school to board the buses. Sometimes students are held up at school for unforeseen reasons and miss their school buses. Once buses depart the school, they are not able to return to pick up any students who have missed their buses.
The bus drives right past my house. Why can't it stop at my house?
Bus stops are placed to allow the buses easy access and egress through neighborhoods while keeping safety a priority. In addition, adding bus stops causes further delays on our bus routes and extends the students' ride time. In the end, this means that bus routes would have to start earlier in the morning to arrive at schools on time. Similarly, adding stops in the afternoon would cause students to arrive home later.
Is it possible for all of my children to sit together on the bus? Yes, it is sometimes possible. If the children are in line together, they have a greater chance of finding seats together or near each other.
Does the bus driver have the right to assign seats on the bus?
The bus driver may assign seats as he/she feels necessary to maintain order and safety on the bus.
With whom should I speak about problems that occurred on my child's bus?
If there is an issue on the bus, please contact your child's school. If you have a concern about a bus driver, route or general questions, please call the Department of Transportation at 703-461-4169.
Another child is harassing or bullying my child on the bus. What should I do?
ACPS has a policy that specifically prohibits bullying at school, during school events and field trips and on a school bus. The bus driver's main focus must be on operating the school bus safely. As a result, the majority of the driver's attention is focused on the road and traffic conditions, so he/she may not see or hear inappropriate behavior among the students on the bus when it occurs. Students who engage in bullying or harassing behaviors are subject to disciplinary action. Please report any problems to your child's school so that appropriate steps may be taken.
Are there consequences if a student misbehaves on the bus?
Yes. Bus drivers report problems to the student's school. Administrators follow the process outlined in the ACPS policy for all disciplinary actions. School administrators may deny a student transportation when his or her conduct presents a threat to the safe operation of the school bus, to the student or to others on the bus. Information is available in the ACPS Student Code of Conduct.
The bus driver disciplined my child on the bus today. Does the driver have the right to do this?
The school bus driver (or attendant) is responsible for the safe operation of the bus. He/she should receive the same level of respect afforded to a classroom teacher, assistant or other school employee. When necessary, drivers or attendants may correct a student. In most cases, that resolves the problem. If the misconduct continues, the driver may complete a "bus conduct report" to notify the school of the event for further review and, if appropriate, disciplinary action.
What is a bus conduct report?
A bus conduct report is used to report a student whose violation of safety rules on the bus may cause harm to the student, to another student or to the public. This includes actions that distract the bus driver's attention from the roadway. If a bus conduct report is completed for a student, the school staff members will contact the student's family if they need to speak to the parent or guardian as part of the disciplinary steps taken to resolve the problem.
Can a family member or other adult board a school bus at the bus stop or at school?
The safety of the children is always our priority. It is illegal for any unauthorized individual to stop or board a school bus. Please do not attempt to board a school bus along the route or at school.
I don't like the bus driver on my child's route. Can I request a different driver?
Bus drivers and attendants are professionally trained and supervised. We do not remove staff from routes without an investigation in accordance with our personnel policies and procedures. If you have a problem, please call the Department of Transportation at 703-461-4169.
My son/daughter used to have a driver that we really liked, but that driver is now on a different route. Can we get the driver back?
We recognize that students often bond and develop relationships with staff, and we try to have drivers and attendants remain on the same routes for extended periods of time. However, in some cases, drivers or attendants may be transferred to other routes.
I think my child's bus is overcrowded. How many children can ride a full-sized school bus?
Large school buses are designed to carry 77 elementary students, with three children per seat and 52 middle and high school students with two students per seat. Students should place their book bags and large items or musical instruments in their laps or on the floor between their legs and the barrier in front.
My child has a cell phone. Can he/she give the phone to the driver to speak to me?
School bus drivers and bus attendants are not permitted to use a student's cell phone or to use a personal cell phone except in the case of an emergency during which the dispatch station cannot be reached.
Can students bring musical instruments or large objects with them on the bus?
Musical Instruments and large objects are permitted on the school bus as long as the student can carry an instrument or object on and off of the bus by him/herself. They must be placed in the student's lap or stored between the student's legs and the barrier in front of the student. Instruments or large objects cannot block the aisle. Large instruments such as drum kits, cellos and basses are too large to be transported safely on school buses. In an accident, these items can easily become a projectile and can injure a student. If you are unsure, please check with your child's school before bringing a large musical instrument or object to the bus stop.
How do I locate a lost item on a school bus?
If a driver finds an item on the bus, he/she will turn the item into the Department of Transportation upon completion of the route. If you contact the Office of Pupil Transportation regarding a lost item, please provide us with a full description of the object. Often, drivers are not able to inspect buses while they are on the road and will check for lost items at their next assignment. We recommend that personal items be stored in the child's backpack. Because electronic devices such as cell phones, tablets, iPods and games are very popular, the recovery rate is very low. We recommend that students store these items in secure places, such as their backpacks, while traveling to and from school.
I am interested in becoming a school bus driver. How can I apply?
Please apply online and submit your five-year driving history. One of our staff members will contact you to discuss becoming part of our team.
I witnessed a problem with a bus driver's driving. How do I report this incident to ACPS?
Please make a note of the location and time of the incident and, most important, the bus number, posted on the side, front and rear of the vehicle. Please call 703-461-4169 and ask for the supervisor.
In Spring 2018, the School Board updated its policy regarding wakzones for elementary school students. The following FAQ relates to those changes.
FAQ Regarding Transportation Eligibility for 2018-19
- Why are school walk zones changing?
- What policies cover transportation?
- What were the major changes to the existing policy?
- How will this change impact my high school student?
- How will this affect students eligible for qualifying services or accommodations?
- Is there any change for students who have received an administrative transfer?
- How is ACPS ensuring that all routes are safe and walkable?
- Why did we receive transportation services last year but not this year given that we live in the same location and have always been within the walk zone? Why are we receiving transportation services this year when we did not last year?
- What do I do if I have questions or concerns regarding my child’s transportation assignment for next year?
Why are school walk zones changing?
School walk zones were reviewed in spring to ensure equity among students when determining eligibility for bus transportation. The updated transportation policy measures distances for K-8 walk zones by the actual walking distance from the school instead of being measured within a radius of the school. The review was also triggered by shifts in school boundaries as a result of redistricting.
What policies cover transportation?
Transportation policies include Student Transportation Services (Policy EEA) and School Bus Scheduling and Routing (Policy EEAB). The review in spring 2018 led to changes to both policies and the implementation of a new regulation Student Transportation Services Regulations (EEA-R/EEAB-R).
What were the major changes to the existing policy?
Two major changes are that (1) the distances for K-8 walk zones are now measured by the actual walking distance from the school instead of in a straight line from the school and (2) the one-mile walk zone has been expanded beyond K-5 students to apply to all K-8 students, ensuring uniformity between traditional middle schools and K-8 schools.
How will this change impact my high school student?
There is no change at the high school level. ACPS will provide transportation to students in grades 9-12 living beyond a one-and-one-half mile radius from the school they attend, or who live within a one-and-one-half mile radius, but who could not reasonably walk to school without passing through a hazardous area.
How will this affect students eligible for qualifying services or accommodations?
ACPS will provide transportation to any student eligible for qualifying services or accommodations, as defined in regulation Student Transportation Services Regulations (EEA-R/EEAB-R
Is there any change for students who have received an administrative transfer?
No. ACPS does not provide transportation for students who have received an administrative transfer outside of their attendance zone.
How is ACPS ensuring that all routes are safe and walkable?
The Department of Transportation has:
- Mapped student routes to and from school to ensure they are safe and viable
- Walked routes where safety or viability was a concern to make transportation decisions specific to such cases
- Worked with the City to address any potential hazards that might impede walking, where possible. Where this was not possible, a decision was made concerning other options.
Why did we receive transportation services last year but not this year given that we live in the same location and have always been within the walk zone? Why are we receiving transportation services this year when we did not last year?
In addressing new school attendance and walk zones, ACPS conducted a comprehensive review of transportation policies. This review led to changes to both policies and the implementation of a new regulation Student Transportation Services Regulations (EEA-R/EEAB-R), which was established on April 26, 2018.
These changes resulted in a decrease in students eligible for transportation at the elementary level, an increase in students eligible for transportation at the middle school level and no change at the high school level.
What do I do if I have questions or concerns regarding my child’s transportation assignment for next year?
Families received a walk or transportation determination letter in the mail for each child in their family in mid-July. If you did not receive a letter or have questions or concerns, please contact the Department of Transportation by submitting your inquiry online, via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 703-461-4169.
The Alexandria City School Board recently approved some changes to the walk zone and bus transportation policy.
- When were these changes announced?
- How many students are eligible for bus transportation under the revised policy?
- What led to these changes?
- Why do we need these changes?
- What is the overall impact of the policy changes?
- Why have some of the routes been adjusted?
- How will I know if my route has been adjusted?
- What are the criteria for reassessment?
- Have some of the issues already been resolved?
- What issues have not been addressed?
- What do I do if I have a transportation concern?
The changes were approved by the School Board in April 2018 and communicated to families on May 6.
- Watch the April School Board meeting.
- View Walk Zone Policy Implementation Presentation from the April School Board meeting.
- Read the announcement in ACPS Express: Changes to School Walk Zones Coming in the 2018-19 School Year
- Students eligible for bus services: 8,266
- Students eligible due to a recognized hazard in the system: 2,060
- Total eligible for ACPS bus service: 10,326
- Students identified as “walk to school:” 5,023
- Individual bus routes: 512
- Bus stops on bus routes: 3,122
- Buses operating on routes: 101
- Taxi service to 13 ACPS campuses: 37
- Taxi service to 12 out of division campuses: 17
What led to these changes?
The walk zone and transportation policy was reviewed to align with the new school boundaries being implemented this September 2018. Bus route and bus stop changes are the result of the implementation of redistricting, which led to an assessment of the policy and how it was being implemented. Over time we had accumulated bus stops, which was inefficient and inequitable.
- Equity: One of the criteria the Board set for redistricting was equity. Over time we had accumulated a collection of various bus stops by request, versus established planning criteria, throughout the division. Both the walk zone policy, the assessment of bus eligibility and the centralization of bus stops was an attempt to reestablish equity across the division.
- Efficiency: A separate reason for this change was efficiency. In addition to enforcing the Walk Zone Policy, the decision to centralize bus stops and limit the number of corner-to-corner bus stops to increase efficiencies is the key issue that presented noticeable changes for families. The Office of Transportation has had to balance the increased need for transportation for some categories of students and an increased request for after-care at the middle school level with the provision of buses for all eligible students. This was the reasoning behind creating fewer, more centralized bus stops but still within a short walk from a student’s home.
What is the overall impact of the policy changes?
The walk zone policy changes have meant that there are fewer students walking than last school year and there are more students on the bus. It has made bus transportation more equitable across the division. Implementation is the issue —not the policy change.
Why have some of the routes been adjusted?
We rely heavily on routing software, however, not everything shows up even using the latest mapping data. Refining the bus routes and bus stops is a usual part of our process at the start of any school year as we want to make sure that the decisions we made prior to the return of students work in practice.
How will I know if my route has been adjusted?
All adjustments are communicated on Thursdays so that bus drivers and families both receive updated schedules in time for the following week. Even small changes have to be planned carefully and communicated to all families on that bus route as a seemingly minor change can have an impact on the entire route. You will hear from our Office of Transportation if you are impacted by any adjustments.
- Is the location an appropriate location for students to wait for a bus?
- Is the walking route safe with clear sidewalks, crosswalks and speed limit zones?
- Is the waiting area adequately lit and safe?
- Can we find alternative solutions to make the walking route safe?
Have some of the issues already been resolved?
Several issues have been addressed since the start of school. Some of these were implemented on September 5 and 6. Some will not be implemented until September 13.
These include but are not limited to overcrowding on buses, transportation to after-care, the limited choice of bus stops when compared with last year, the safety of bus stops, the distance required to walk to bus stops, hazards that were initially undetected by the software.
In addition, the City has cleaned up parks and supported the area with additional police patrols.
On N. Beauregard Street, the City's Department of Transportation and Environmental Services made significant safety improvements, including the addition of a 25-mile-per-hour school zone during times when students will be walking. Our neighbors and Alexandria Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities department also made sure all greenery was cleared along the sidewalk so that students can use the full width of the sidewalk. Alexandria Families for Safe Streets helped our students walk to Ferdinand T. Day and William Ramsay safely on their first day.
What issues have not been addressed?
ACPS has received some complaints regarding the distance students are being required to walk to reach T.C. Williams High School and the Minnie Howard campus. These walk distances have not changed from last year as the policy was not changed in this area. These issues have not been addressed as this would require a change in policy.
What do I do if I have a transportation concern?
If you have questions or concerns, about transportation please contact the ACPS Office of Transportation by submitting your inquiry online, via email to email@example.com or by calling 703-461-4169.