Howard County parents have been banding together over a common cause — finding solutions to get students to and from school on time.
School start times will shift for every single student starting Wednesday.
Howard County Superintendent Michael Martirano said the decision was made to address arrival and dismissal delays.
But the move is not sitting well with families.
A grassroots organization, called “Neighbors for Buses,” held a town hall meeting on Tuesday at Howard County’s central library to talk over other solutions.
The town hall comes after a rough start to the school year with some 2,000 students having to find their own transportation due to route mishaps and bus driver shortages.
“Many have felt high levels of emotional strain due to the uncertainties of the simple question: How will my children get to and from school safely?” Howard County resident Corinne Happel said.
Happel is behind “Neighbors for Buses.” The meeting that the organization hosted on Tuesday was for parents to air out their concerns. Some parents say they feel they’ve been left out of the equation entirely.
Since the start of the school year, families across Howard County are searching for stability after a shaky situation with the public school system’s bus operations.
From driver callouts leading to a lack of services for thousands of students to delays getting to and from school, the administration says school staff has been analyzing how to fix ongoing issues.
Some parents mulled over terminating the contract Zūm has with the school district.
“If we can’t terminate without an alternative, we definitely don’t want to renew,” one parent said.
Martirano cites the top issue still affecting drivers is insufficient time or “slack” built into the routing, especially for drivers who service all three tiers.
The tier system is new this school year, staggering when students begin their day with the goal to give them more time to rest.
School staff says the change does not adjust any times beyond 10 minutes.
In a workshop on Monday, Howard County Board of Education members all used the word “disappointment” to describe this decision.
They also say these bus problems were avoidable had proper pressure testing of routes been done beforehand.
Parents within the school district are also frustrated by the school bus problems.
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 five 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.