Planning School Sites for School Bus Safety
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In the selection of school sites, major consideration should be given to the safety of pupils riding school buses. These vehicles will be forced to utilize the roads in and around the school site plus public highways leading into the school area. High-density traffic flow near school exits and entrances due to the proximity of super highways, periodic commercial traffic or massive commuter traffic from industrial plans should be avoided.
Since in many cases school sites are selected before architects are hired, it is suggested that this fact sheet be issued to boards of education and municipal planning authorities alerting them to important considerations in school site selection. It is also suggested that boards of education solicit the help of school transportation professionals, school superintendents, traffic engineers, and other state officials in evaluating possible school sites.
Once a site has been selected, the following points should be considered in designing the school and grounds:
- The location of the school plant on a site should allow safe entrance and exit for all pupils. State, county, and local roads servicing the area should have a minimum 30-foot paved width where loading and unloading is contemplated off the main thoroughfare. If it is necessary to load or unload students on the main thoroughfare in front of the school, a paved road at least 40 feet wide should be provided.
- All school bus traffic should be considered as one-way traffic flow, preferably with the service door side of the bus always next to the loading and unloading zone.
- Whenever possible, separate pick-up and delivery points some distance from the teacher and student parking areas should be designated for parents, service, teacher, and administrative traffic. Unsafe conditions are created by haphazard pick up and delivery of pupils in the bus loading zones, particularly during inclement weather.
- Whenever possible, roads should not be constructed that completely circle a school. Areas that students must cross to engage in outside activities should be free of all vehicular traffic.
- All school bus roads entering into or exiting from main arteries should have a minimum 50 to 100 foot radius turn on the inner edge of the pavement. Within the school site, roads should have at least a 60-foot radius on the inner edge of pavement on all curves. At least a 50-foot tangent section should be provided between reverse curves. In order to minimize driveway entrance and exit widths, island construction may be required. Driveway openings must conform to local requirements. Driveway openings on state highways should be approved by the state highway department.
- Curbing, with suitable drainage, is recommended on all roads utilized by the school bus within the school site. Consideration should be given to the performance specifications set by the appropriate state agency. A minimum road width of 30 feet should be maintained for one-way traffic and 36 feet for two-way traffic. Roads should be wider on all curves.
- In the construction of parking areas, it might be advantageous if only the visitor parking spaces were close to the school. Care should be exercised in the placement of these areas to preclude the visitor from crossing the school bus traffic pattern.
- Prior to designing and laying out roads and parking lots, architects should consult with the school administration on:
- Total number of pupils and school personnel
- Number of present and projected pupils to be transported
- Number of buses
- Number of other vehicles dropping off and/or picking up students.
- Type of schedule
- Staggered opening and closing times
- Single opening and closing time
- Extra-curricular activities that would necessitate use of school buses
- It is desirable to locate parked buses on school grounds to prevent glare from reflective surfaces of windows, doors, and windshields from being transmitted to the pupils in the classroom.
- Attention should be given in planning school bus parking, loading and unloading zones to encourage diagonal parking. Parking should exclude the necessity for backing the bus.
- Sidewalk plans for pupils walking to school should eliminate crosswalks in front of the buses.
- Architects’ plans for school buildings often include a bus canopy. Canopies are advantageous in schools attended by children with disabilities. The height of the canopy should accommodate the highest school buses. Each canopy support post adjacent to the driveway curb should have a 3-foot minimum setback from the curb to minimize the possibility of crushing a pupil between the support posts and arriving school buses.
- For areas that will be constantly utilized by heavy school buses, the type of pavement and base should conform to state highway department specification.
- All roads within the school site should be graded to avoid configurations that could impair a motorist’s vision. It is suggested that a maximum 5-percent grade be allowed for roads on school sites. At entrance and exit points, a maximum 2-percent grade should be allowed. Trees and shrubbery planted on the school site should not obstruct a motorist’s vision.
- Plans for location of access and service roads should exclude conditions that would require school buses to be backed on the school premises.
- All pupil loading and unloading should be provided for on the school site. Attention should be given to entrance ramps and handrails for loading of students using mobility devices.
- Plans for roads and loading areas should accommodate emergency vehicles, which must have access to the school at all times.
- Where necessary, traffic control devices should be provided to assist school traffic in entering the regular traffic flow.