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Howard County Public Schools superintendent says impact of "transportation crisis" devastating

Howard County Public Schools superintendent says impact of "transportation crisis" devastating
Howard County Public Schools superintendent says impact of "transportation crisis" devastating 02:55

BALTIMORE -- After a chaotic start to the school year, Howard County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano is addressing the problems with bus service at several schools.

FULL PRESS CONFERENCE: Howard County Public Schools superintendent says impact of "transportation cr 27:51

On the first day of school, there was a traffic bottleneck of more than 200 buses at Zum's bus depot and several drivers for the company didn't show up for the job, leading to 20 routes being canceled, he said.

Those cancelations have affected 2,400 students.

Martirano said the challenges presented to the families and "the diminishment of excitement on the first day of school" for the 57,000 young people pained him "greatly."  

"Quite frankly, I am devastated," he said. "We will do better, and we need to do better because the children in our county are counting on us to do better."

He said his district has been working for over the past two and a half days "to overcome this transportation crisis that has occurred in the Howard County Public School System."

Some of the problems inflicted upon Howard County's families stemmed from "contractor technology issues" and "errors that could have been mitigated that were not."

These errors included data provided to contractors that caused the bus drivers to become lost during the process of picking up students and dropping them off.

Additionally, the bus route information provided to some drivers was inconsistent with what was provided to families and schools, he said. There were reports that the bus numbers on the sides of the buses did not match with the numbers provided to families, he said.

Also, "adequate stress testing was not conducted in order to test the routes so that failures could be identified and corrected," Martirano said.

"We need to have reliable bus service in order to have a good education," parent Corinne Happel said.  

Howard County Public Schools System said in a statement earlier this week that Zum Transportation alerted officials to the fact that would "not be able to cover 54 routes due to driver callouts for the remainder of this week."

During the summer, the district announced a contract with Zum, a California-based bus company with a fleet of 250 buses.   

At that time, Martirano said the new contractor had assured the district that it would have additional drivers at the ready.

"On that first day, if we don't have enough bus drivers here, they've already contracted 40 bus drivers from other locations to have them come here, put them up in hotels until we are able to fill our positions," Martirano had said at the time.

Howard County Executive Calvin Ball issued a statement apologizing to county residents for the school bus issues on Tuesday. In it, he noted that he, too, was frustrated with what he described as "transportation hurdles."

Ball said that bus issues shouldn't happen after the Board of Education was funded with a $8.2 million increase for transportation.

Martirano said he would be meeting with the CEO of the Zum next week to discuss the issues that happened.

WJZ asked the superintendent how long it would take all of these issues to be resolved.

He said he was looking at about two weeks.

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