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Howard County Schools superintendent addresses plan to improve bus pick-up, drop-off delays

Howard County Schools superintendent addresses plan to improve bus pick-up, drop-off delays
Howard County Schools superintendent addresses plan to improve bus pick-up, drop-off delays 02:58

BALTIMORE - The superintendent of the Howard County Public School System laid out a plan to address delays in school bus pick-up and drop-off times to Board of Education members Monday evening.

The major issue still impacting bus drivers to deliver students when school is set to begin is insufficient time, according to Superintendent Michael Martirano. 

"This has been very clearly stated by several contractors and bus drivers who drive for various services," Martirano said. "There simply isn't enough time, or slack, built into the routing."

The public school system has made the decision to shift school start and dismissal times across the county, which is set to begin on Wednesday, Sept. 20. 

This academic year, the district debuted a three-tier start time system to allow students more time to sleep. The new change does not adjust any times beyond 10 minutes, with the earliest school day beginning at 7:50 a.m. for those who fall under tier one. 

"The more time that we're afforded in between each of the trips, the higher the success level increases so now we have a uniform time of 40 minutes in between each of those trips to deliver those students," explained a school staff member. 

The plan was unwelcome news to board members, who repeatedly expressed 'disappointment' in the decision. 

"I've heard my colleagues say today that they're disappointed. I think that's the understatement of the century. I'm mad, I'm agitated, I'm frustrated, I'm disappointed. This is, in many ways to all of us, unfathomable what our families are having to do," said Howard County Public School System Board Member Jennifer Mallo. 

Board members questioned the validity of the data presented during the workshop meeting, which was derived from the GPS system on each Zum Transportation bus and an analysis of the first two weeks of school.

The plan was called 'biased' and a 'one size fits all' solution by Board Vice Chair, Yun Lu. 

Others, including Board Member Linfeng Chen, said it was 'premature to make adjustments' and that he was 'not happy to see this happen.'

School staff listed additional improvements that are in the works, which include a pipeline of bus drivers to tap when there are callouts and individual route adjustments once the new plan is implemented, Martirano said.

"We anticipate the first day will not be perfect as bus drivers, students, staff and families adjust to the new times and account for traffic patterns and other factors. Based on the data and the additional slack in the schedule, we expect to see continuous improvements in the on‐time arrival compared to the current schedule," said Martirano. 

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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