Planning School Sites
for School Bus Safety

When selecting school sites, major consideration should be given to the safety of pupils riding school buses.
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Planning School Sites For School Bus Safety

We suggest that this fact sheet be issued to boards of education and municipal planning authorities alerting them to important considerations for school bus safety in school site selection. The board of education should solicit the help of school transportation professionals, school superintendents, traffic engineers, and other state officials in evaluating possible school sites.

School Buses 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, commercial traffic or massive commuter traffic should be avoided.

Once a site is selected, the following points should be considered in designing the school and grounds:

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.

One-Way Traffic Flow

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.

Separate Pick-up and Delivery Points

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 pickup and delivery of pupils in the bus loading zones, particularly during inclement weather.

Cautious Construction

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.

Pavement Planning

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.

Parking Lot Plans

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.

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.

Sidewalk Plans

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.

Pupil Loading and Unloading

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.

Access and Service Road Locations

Plans for location of access and service roads should exclude conditions that would require school buses to be backed on the school premises.

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.