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‘Make alternative arrangements’: Howard Co. says school bus delays will continue amid driver vacancies

Thousands of Howard County students showed up late to their first day back Monday after school buses didn’t show up on their scheduled routes.

Howard County Public Schools is telling parents to look for alternatives to bus routes after several buses were delayed or didn’t show up at all on the first day of school on Monday.

In a statement released Monday night, the Maryland school system apologized, saying one of the county’s independent contractors, Zum Transportation, announced it did not have enough drivers to cover the 20 routes for the remainder of this week.

Another issue parents had was that some bus locator numbers did not match up with the actual number on the side of the buses that arrived along routes. To address this issue, the school system said buses will have signs in their windows with the numbers that align with those found in the HCPSS Connect portal.

In an email to families on Monday afternoon, Michael Martirano, superintendent of the school system, said, “we must work together to create a culture of showing up,” and he will continue to monitor transportation operations and is committed to getting it right from now on.

The bus routes the transportation company will not be able to cover this week are:

  • 1020 – Mt Hebron HS, Patapsco MS, St John’s Lane ES
  • 1023 – Centennial HS, Centennial Lane ES, St John’s Lane ES
  • 1148 – Atholton HS, Cradlerock ES
  • 1161 – Atholton HS, Thunder Hill ES
  • 1163 – Wilde Lake HS, Wilde Lake MS
  • 1165 – Atholton HS, Wilde Lake MS
  • 1168 – Atholton HS, Mayfield Woods MS, Bellows Spring ES
  • 1191 – Long Reach HS, Lake Elkhorn MS, Atholton ES
  • 1078 – Clarksville MS, Pointers Run ES
  • 1090 – Reservoir HS, Hammond MS, Forest Ridge ES
  • 1155 – Oakland Mills HS, Phelps Luck ES, Thunder Hill ES
  • 1201 – Long Reach HS, Phelps Luck ES, Atholton ES
  • 1122 – Patuxent Valley MS, Murray Hill MS
  • 1144 – Atholton HS, Swansfield ES, Waterloo ES
  • 1053 – Dunloggin MS, Burleigh Manor MS, Northfield ES
  • 1176 – Atholton HS, Talbot Springs ES, Waterloo ES
  • 1089 – Hammond HS, Bollman Bridge ES, Gorman Crossing ES
  • 1070 – Hammond HS, Hammond MS, Guilford ES
  • 1173 – Clarksville MS, Pointers Run ES, Swansfield ES
  • 1154 – Wilde Lake HS, Wilde Lake MS, Running Brook ES

Parents react

HCPSS parent Michal Secker told WTOP that she waited with her son at a bus stop for nearly an hour.

“I was really upset that there was no communication on what happened after 15-20 minutes,” she said. “And where was our bus? And was it ever going to come? … There was some families there who couldn’t drive their kids to school. So what happens to them? Do they just, you know, not attend school?”

Secker said she was told it was a county-wide issue but was aware of the “controversial agreements” with Zum Transportation, referencing the new contract Howard County schools signed with the company to operate 250 buses.

Secker then called up Zum, who originally told her it was her county representative’s fault. Then a Zum supervisor told her the real issue was that the county changed the bus routes last-minute.

“That’s not right. They had a job, they’re not doing the job. We as taxpayers are paying the county, the county’s paying them and I want an explanation or an idea of what’s going on,” Secker said.

Secker said that the county board of education had boasted the contract with Zum, promising they were ready for the new school year and had been training drivers ahead of time.

“I feel that we’ve been failed by them. We were promised that this was going to be better improved,” she said. “There’s hundreds of families that have worse situations. What is it for? It seems like it was all for nothing. I think that this decision to go with Zum was a mistake.”

WTOP’s Ivy Lyons and Dimitri Sotis contributed to this report.

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