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Howard County schools start new staggered start, dismissal schedule due to bus issues

Howard County schools start new staggered start, dismissal schedule due to bus issues
Howard County schools start new staggered start, dismissal schedule due to bus issues 02:39

BALTIMORE -- Families all over Howard County are adjusting to new school start times that began Wednesday morning.

The superintendent shifted the times in hopes of solving major bus service issues the district has been dealing with since the first day of school.

Some Howard County Schools are starting 10 minutes earlier while others are starting five to 10 minutes later.

WJZ talked to parents who live in different parts of the county. Some of them reported no issues with the new start times, while others said they're still having problems.

"Now, we're back to day one of, 'Is there going to be a school bus, is it going to come on time?'' parent Meredith Kulikowski said.

WJZ met up with Kulikowski Wednesday morning as she waited for her son's bus to take him to Patuxent Valley Middle.

The bus was on time, but she said the new start times are taking a toll.

"Now my son wakes up before I do," Kulikowski said. "The superintendent was very clear about how it was going to be a 10-minute impact, but now my son's bus is coming 20 minutes early."

Kulikowski is one of many parents feeling uneasy about the bus service delays and mix-ups that have plagued the start of the school year in Howard County.

A group of parents met Tuesday night to voice their concerns over the issues they've been experiencing since the district switched to a new bus contractor called Zum.

"A month into the school year, you would hope to see routines in place and things rocking and rolling," Kulikowski said.

However, not every parent feels this way. Some tell WJZ they feel they can finally rely on their child's bus.

"They seem to have gotten it corrected," parent Robert Vincent said. "So, from that perspective, we're happy about it."

Howard County Public Schools superintendent, Dr. Michael Martirano notified parents of the change in start times last week. He hopes it will solve some of the issues.

According to a spokesperson, the district is currently evaluating how the new start times impact the buses. But, he tells WJZ that early assessments show improvement.

However, many parents like Kulikowski remain skeptical.

"I almost feel like they have to go back to the drawing board," Kulikowski said. "They had all summer to figure this out and here we are a month into school and everyone is still doubting how good this plan is."

Martirano said in a statement that Wednesday marked the "third consecutive day of all 500+ bus routes being covered, and the adjustments to school and bus times resulted in significant improvements."

"Compared to yesterday, our morning bus arrival data showed significant improvement with Tier 1 schools going from 83% of buses arriving on time to 93%, Tier 2 schools from 80% to 96% on time, and Tier 3 schools from 76% to 98% on time," he said in the statement.

Martirano said the numbers showed a "stark improvement" when compared to the past several days.

" It is certainly not perfect, and our work is far from being done, but I am encouraged by the progress we made today and very pleased with the direction we are heading," he said in the statement.

Martirano said there is still more work that needs to be done, though, which includes making adjustments to individual routes that continue to experience issues.  

You can view the superintendent's presentation online, which includes a section for frequently asked questions.  

Adjustments to school start times:

  • Tier one - 7:50 a.m., which is 10 minutes earlier 
  • Tier two middle schools - 8:30 a.m., which is 10 minutes earlier 
  • Tier two elementary schools - 8:45 a.m., which is 5 minutes later 
  • Tier three schools - 9:25 a.m., which is 10 minutes later 

Adjustments to school dismissal times:

  • Tier one - 2:35 p.m.
  • Tier two - 3:15 p.m.
  • Tier three - 3:55 p.m. 
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