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Maryland bus contractors seek to alleviate Howard County's school transportation troubles

Your Thursday Evening News Roundup (9/21/2023)
Your Thursday Evening News Roundup (9/21/2023) 01:27

BALTIMORE -- The Maryland School Bus Contractors Association said in a statement on Thursday that it was concerned about the practices of California-based contractor Zum Transportation and its ability to transport children to various schools in Howard County.

Steve Nelson, the president of the association, said the bus company had failed to live up to its responsibilities to the students and families it was hired to serve.

Nelson called on the Howard County Public School System to use community-based contractors to rectify the situation.

"What is happening in Howard County should be a lesson to systems across the State," Nelson said in the statement. "Large out of state contractors make promises that in many cases they cannot keep."

Thousands of Howard County students have been grappling with school bus problems. The school buses have been getting delayed due to insufficient route timing and traffic delays, resulting in a domino effect making buses later and later, according to Dr. Michael Martirano, the superintendent for Howard County Schools.

To alleviate the problem, Howard County Public Schools has tried adjusting the start times for its schools.  

This is the second time Howard County Schools has changed its start times.

They were changed last school year, making them start later for the 2023-2024 school year.

Stephanie de Wit said two of her kids have been impacted by the school bus debacle.

"My oldest rides a Zum bus and she has consistently arrived to school at or after school start time," de Wit said. "She was actually marked absent one day."

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.  

A group of parents met on Tuesday 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."

WJZ has reached out to Zum Services for comment.

The transportation company noted in an online blog that "the new bell schedule has dramatically improved on-time performance."

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