(1) School bus drivers must be fully qualified in order for a district to receive state reimbursement for the bus. Qualifications for bus drivers are prescribed by 20-10-103 , MCA, and by the Board of Public Education. These require that the driver:
(a) have five years of licensed driving experience;
(b) is not less than 18 years of age;
(c) be of good moral character;
(d) hold a driver's license with the proper commercial vehicle operator's endorsement;
(e) have filed with the board of trustees a satisfactory report of a physical examination, signed by a licensed physician in the state of Montana, on a federal Department of Transportation (DOT) form;
(f) hold a valid basic first-aid certificate or certificate from an equivalent or more advanced first-aid course; and
(g) hold a valid certificate (form TR-35) as evidence of meeting the above qualifications.
(2) State reimbursement for bus transportation for the full school term will be made only when a new driver of the bus has completed the first-aid requirement within 60 days from the employment date. Any bus operated by a driver not so qualified will not be eligible for state reimbursement for that portion of the term that the driver is not qualified. Drivers who have driven the previous year must have the first-aid requirement completed before the expiration date on their certificate.
(3) In the event a district (or contractor) is obligated to employ a driver as a replacement for a driver employed at the beginning of the school year, or must employ an additional driver, a period of 60 days will be permitted for the new driver to acquire the first-aid certificate. If after 60 days following the date of first employment of the additional or replacement driver, the first-aid requirement has not been met, the bus operated by the driver will not qualify for state reimbursement for that portion of the year that the driver is not qualified, including the 60-day grace period.
(4) The holding of a Montana school bus driver certificate is proof that the driver meets all the qualifications of the school transportation law. The bus driver certificate forms are provided by the Superintendent of Public Instruction for use by the board of trustees. The board issues a certificate to each driver who is authorized and qualified to drive, and files a copy with the county superintendent and a copy with the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
(5) A school bus driver certificate remains valid until the earliest expiration date of the commercial vehicle operator's endorsement, the first-aid certificate, and/or physical examination. A new certificate must be issued to the driver when any of the above items expires and is renewed.
(6) The qualifications of all bus drivers are reviewed at the time the state verification of transportation claims is made, as the qualifications of the bus driver are one of the criteria for eligibility for reimbursement. With the exception of (2) and (3) , the State Superintendent will not reimburse for routes driven by drivers without a current certificate on file with the Office of Public Instruction. If any license, certificate or examination was expired for any period of time, the Office of Public Instruction will withhold transportation reimbursement funding for the number of days the driver was not qualified.