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If you have questions contact Nicole Proesch, legal counsel for the Department and the State Board,
at 515-281-8661 or nicole.proesch@iowa.gov.
BOOK: 27 
DECISION: 524 
MONTH-YEAR: August - 2014
IN RE: Transportation appeal
APPELLANT: Julie Gessell
APPELLEE: Iowa City Community School District
KEYWORDS: Transportation
FULL TEXT: https://www.educateiowa.gov/documents/appeal-decisions/2014/10/book-27-decision-524 
DETAILS: Mrs. Gesell seeks reversal of the decision of the local Board of Directors of the Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) made on May 29, 2014 to end discretionary transportation for an area in the City of North Liberty.

Parents argued that the districts decision to discontinue busing was an abuse of discretion and presented evidence that the walking route proposed by the district was unsafe. 
  The board minutes reflect that after hearing evidence and testimony from all the parties the board members discussed the issues presented.  After this discussion a motion was made to overturn the administrative decision and allow for discretionary busing of students to Garner.  The motion failed for lack of a second.  A motion was made to uphold the administrative decision.  This motion failed for lack of a second.  Since nothing passed, the ICCSD Board in effect upheld the decision of administration to discontinue discretionary busing of students to Garner.

Ms. Gesell, along with 10 other families, filed a timely notice of appeal of the ICCSD Board decision to the GWAEA Board and requested a hearing.  The GWAEA Board by a motion and affirmative vote of 7-0 concluded that the ICCSD Boards decision to end discretionary transportation for all appellants was not an abuse of discretion and did not violate any procedure of the ICCSD Board policy. 
  At the appeal hearing before the Department, Ms. Gesell argued that the walking route proposed by the ICCSD was not safe and requested that the decision be overturned.  The ICCSD asked for the decision of the ICCSD Board to be upheld. 

The issue in this appeal is whether the ICCSD abused its discretion when it terminated discretionary busing for an area in the City of North Liberty which included the Gesell residence.  The GWAEA Board concluded that the ICCSD did not abuse its discretion in so deciding.  The Department agrees. 

The Department has the authority to review a school districts decision regarding transportation disputes between school patrons and the board of a school district.  Iowa Code § 285.12 (2013).  A school district is only required to provide transportation to elementary school students who live more than two miles from the school they are designated to attend.  Id. § 285.1(a)(1).  A school board in their discretion may but is not required to provide transportation to those students who are located less than two miles from the school and not otherwise entitled to transportation.  Id. § 285.1(c). 
  The Appellant here is required to show that the ICCSD abused its discretion when it decided to end discretionary busing for the Garner attendance zone that included their residence.  However, no evidence has been offered to support this argument.  Under the abuse of discretion standard, a reasonable person could find substantial evidence supporting ICCSDs decision in this case.

The record here establishes that ICCSD reviews discretionary busing on a yearly basis to determine if changes needed to be made to any of this bus routes.  In April of 2014 ICCSD conducted a review of discretionary busing for the Garner attendance zone.  As part of that review the district review of the financial costs of transportation and balanced the other needs of the school district against the need to continue discretionary busing in the district.  District administrators determined that other needs such as teacher salaries and benefits, curriculum, professional development, support staff salaries and benefits, and other expenses outweighed the need to continue discretionary busing in some areas.  Eliminating this route alone saves the district approximately $40,000.00 during the upcoming school year.  From a financial perspective this is certainly sufficient evidence supporting the districts decision.     
  Given the facts in the record it can hardly be argued that the district did not carefully balance the competing interests involved in making this discretionary decision.  Although the Appellant has raised legitimate concerns about the safety of the proposed walking route, these concerns were considered by the district several times throughout the appeal process and the district and AEA still found the route to be safe.  Under these circumstances the Department finds that a reasonable person could have found substantial evidence supporting the school districts decision.  Thus, we conclude the ICCSD did not abuse its discretion.       
OUTCOMES: The decision of the Board of Directors of the Iowa City Community School District made on May 29, 2014, is AFFIRMED, and the decision of the Board of Directors of the Grant Wood Area Education Agency made on June 27, 2014, is AFFIRMED