Frequently Asked Questions

We just moved to Portsmouth. How do I get a bus for my child?
Transportation staff will be more than happy to help you find out what school you are zoned for and bus to ride. Once you have fully registered your child in school, the school’s staff will inform you what bus your child should ride. You can also call transportation to find out what bus your child should ride, the nearest stop to your home and the approximate time the bus will arrive. 

My child left a coat (glasses, instrument, books) on the bus. What do I do?
Drivers check their buses after every run. Items left by students are held by the driver for several days and may be claimed on the bus by the child. Unclaimed and unlabeled items are donated to charity. You can help by labeling all of your child's school belongings with the child's name and school. 

The bus didn't show up on time for my child. How long should he/she wait at the stop? Your child should arrive at the bus stop at least five minutes before the regular arrival time of the bus. If there is a substitute driver, there may be a short delay. If the bus is late ask your child to remain at the stop. Sometimes the a bus breaks down, roads are blocked or drivers become ill, but there will always be a bus at every stop. 

What should be done if there is a transportation-related problem after office hours? If there is a problem after 5:00 PM and on weekends please leave a message at 757-393-8269 and you call will be returned as soon as possible.

I see buses all the time with only a few children on them. Why can’t my child ride that bus? Portsmouth Public Schools have many special programs that require that students be transported considerable distances. When transporting students to these special programs, the time length of the run sometimes makes it impossible to fully utilize the capacity of the bus.

Examples:

Special Education Programs, Alternative programs, vocational programs, alternative schools, and other programs with limited enrollment and central location result in light loads.

My family and I have been displaced. Will I be able to get transportation for my children?

Yes, you will be authorized 30-45 days to enroll your child into their new zone school. During this time your child will be transported to the school that they are currently enrolled. Please contact Youth Risk for more information, 757-393-8411. 

Who determines if my child is in a non-transportation zone? Portsmouth Public Schools uses EDULOG and Web Query to map out distances. Car odometers are not accurate enough to precisely measure the distance. Elementary children may be required to walk up to one-half mile to a school.  Middle and Secondary students may be required to walk up to one mile to school. However, bus stops are designed to be within three-tenths of a mile for elementary students and five-tenths of a mile for middle and high school students from the residence.

I can't see my child's bus stop from my house. How can I get the bus stop moved closer? All bus stop requests are evaluated by the Transportation Coordinator. Stops are placed at centralized locations/corners that can be safely accessed by a significant number of students to minimize the time length and mileage of the run. If you have concerns about your child's safety you are encouraged to accompany your child to the bus stop or arrange a neighborhood buddy to walk with your child.

We live within the non-transportation zone but very close to a bus stop for my child's school. May my child ride the bus from that stop? Transportation typically will not approve a student within the non-transportation zone to ride a bus to prevent overcrowding. Special considerations will be reviewed for safety issues only. If approved and at a later date the bus becomes overcrowded, or the stop is removed, the approval will be rescinded.

How can a special needs child living inside a school’s attendance zone be picked up at a regular school bus stop? The parent should work with the Special Education Department, 757.393.8858, to have her/his student IEP modified to read special education transportation is not required. We strive to transport our children in the least restrictive environment. 

Why are buses sometimes late? School bus drivers can have the same reasons as motorists for being late. Traffic delays, weather conditions, accidents or driver's illness are just a few reasons. School buses also have mechanical breakdowns or "no starts" that cause delays in picking students up on time. A school bus may be able to run but have a red traffic light malfunction which would make it unsafe to pick up or discharge students on our highways, before it is repaired. In cases where the regularly assigned bus or driver is unable to pick up students, a separate bus and driver are dispatched to pick up the students. Generally, when a bus starts out late on its first or second run, it continues to be late for its third or fourth run also.

Inclement weather/2-hr Delay: What time will my child’s school start?

If it is deemed that road conditions are not conducive for safe pupil transportation and a 2-hour delay is observed, please add 2 additional hours to the time that your child usually ride the bus: Example: My child bus normally arrives between 7:55 a.m. – 8:05 a.m. Your bus will not arrive between 9:55 a.m. – 10:05 a.m.


Are school bus monitors required on school buses transporting special needs children? There is no regulation requiring school bus monitors on school buses. The assignment of monitors / assistants is determined by the needs of the children riding the school bus and for safety concerns.


Why are school bus seats spaced so closely together? The basic purpose in spacing school bus seats so closely is to contain the child in a cushioned compartment with only a minimum amount of space between energy-absorbing surfaces.

After extensive research during the 1970's, the Department of Transportation and its agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) determined that the safest and most practical arrangement for school bus seating would be a "compartmentalization" concept. Accordingly, the new safety regulations established in 1977 included this requirement among many other improvements made that year. Under the compartmentalization concept, seat backs in school buses are made higher, wider and thicker than before. All metal surfaces are covered with foam padding. This structure must then pass rigid test requirements for absorbing energy, such as would be required if a child's body were thrown against the padded back. In addition, the equivalent of a seat back, called a "barrier," is placed in front of the first seat at the front of the bus.

        In addition to padding, today's seats also must have a steel inner structure that springs and bends forward to help absorb energy when a child is thrown against it. The steel frame must "give" just enough to absorb the child in the seat ahead. Also, of course, the seat is required to be anchored to the floor so strongly it will not pull loose during this bending action. The floor itself must be so strong that it will not be bent or torn by the pulling action of the seat anchors.

        Finally, the requirement is added that seat backs can be no farther apart than a distance that is deemed safe. Clearly, if the backs were too far apart, the child could be thrown too far before being cushioned and/or could be thrown outside the compartment altogether. Today's rules call for a seat back to be no farther than 24" away from a defined point in the middle of a child's abdomen (the seat reference point).


Why aren't seat belts required in school buses? Seat belts are not required in school buses because research by DOT and others determined that compartmentalization was a better solution, as mentioned under question #15. However, adding seatbelts to school buses are currently under review. Some of the key arguments favoring compartmentalization over seat belts are as follows:

  • Compartmentalization is more manageable. The protective surfaces exist in place without depending on any action by the children or any extra special supervision by the drivers. Seat belts require discipline and supervision to keep them clean, unraveled and in use.
  • Compartmentalization works equally well for 1, 2 or 3 students per seat. Today's 39" wide standard seats may contain three small children or two large ones, or any combination in between. Arranging seat belts to properly handle any combination is difficult, if not impossible; the best known solution with seat belts is to restrict each seat to two students and two belts, which has the disadvantage of sharply reducing the carrying capacity of bus fleets.
  • Compartmentalization works whether students have fully developed abdominal areas or not. Conventional seat belts, which are lap restraints only, are not suitable for small children whose abdominal area and bone structure are not adequately developed to take the force of a lap belt alone. They need the help of chest harnesses also, which adds to the complexity of a proper seat belt solution.
  • Compartmentalization, once it has done its energy-absorbing job, leaves the student free to escape the bus. Seat belts could leave students strapped in, upside down, perhaps unconscious, in burning or flooding buses.
  • Compartmentalization is most affordable. Although not a part of the DOT reasoning, this is a factor to be considered. In evaluating the cost of seat belts alone, one should include the cost of retractors and chest restraints also, since those appear needed. Even more important is the probability that a seat belt solution should lead to two students per seat and greater spacing between seats, thereby requiring more buses for the same student load.


What are Portsmouth Public Schools operating hours? In order to maximize the use of our school bus fleet and to provide a more efficient operation with as few buses as possible, schools are divided into a 4 tier system. That enables one bus to serve up to four different schools within 3 1/4 hours in the morning and afternoon.

  • High schools are first tier schools with a bell time of 7:25 a.m. and regular dismissal at 2:10 p.m.
  • Middle schools are second tier school with a bell time of 8:05 a.m. and regular dismissal at 2:45 p.m.
  • Elementary schools and pre-school centers are divided between third and fourth tiers.                         
    1. Third tier schools bell time is 8:40 a.m. with a regular dismissal at 3:20 p.m.                         
    2. Fourth tier school bell time is 9:15 a.m. with a regular dismissal at 3:55 p.m.  


Why are spare replacement buses needed? Buses operate throughout the day with shuttles, kindergarten runs, and field trips, in addition to the normal to-and-from school transportation requirements. In order to have the required number of operational buses each day, a group of backup or spare buses must be retained. By state regulation, school buses are required to be serviced and inspected every 30 days. When a bus is in for service, a spare bus is required to continue its runs without interruption. Furthermore, when a bus has mechanical problems or damage from accident or vandalism that require it to be out of service, a spare bus is needed to perform the duties of the out-of-service bus. Often, this can be for an extended period of time, especially in the case of accident repairs.

How can my child get picked up or dropped off at a day care provider's location? If you want transportation to or from a day care provider's location, you should inform the school administration your child attends. Transportation to day care locations is provided within the attending school zone only.

How can I arrange to have my child ride a different bus home from school for one day? The child's parent or guardian must send a written request to the school principal. If approved, the principal will provide written authorization to the driver of that bus. This should not be a regular practice as it increases safety hazards.