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Impending school bus crisis in Anne Arundel County

Contractors say changes may create logistical nightmare
School bus
School bus
Posted at 3:44 PM, May 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-16 19:19:20-04

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The good news is school buses won’t have to pick up high school students nearly as early as they do now next year.

“The aim was to get the healthier school hours for all students, so the circadian rhythm issue with teenagers waking up later in the day,” said Bob Mosier, the spokesman for Anne Arundel County Public Schools.

The bad news for many bus drivers is they’ll have no time to run one route to the high school and then pick up another one to the elementary and middle schools since their start up times will remain the same.

“I’ve been told that 70 buses are going to operate just for one school at this point, which kind of to me is a waste of resources where the buses now can do two to three schools with keeping the bell times staggered,” said Greg Lonergan who runs Lonergan’s Charter Service, which dates back more than 60 years. “With the bus driver shortage now that’s going to be very difficult to get accomplished next year.”

The school system is requiring parents to register their children now for bus services next fall, but contractors say that won’t help much with the timing of delivering them.

The logistics surrounding those new start up times are so challenging that Lonergan says he’s allowing a dozen of his existing bus contracts to expire without rebidding them under the premise that he’ll run fewer buses and try to provide more reliable service.

Without last year’s one-time bonuses, drivers face the prospect of running fewer routes, and working less hours for less pay.

Not exactly the perfect formula for retaining drivers at a time when hiring new ones is so difficult.

“My suggestion to the board is to put this off at least another year, let us regroup and try to retain and keep drivers now and let’s revisit this another time,” said Lonergan.

“The board voted very clearly to move forward in the next school year, and we as an administration and a staff, that is exactly what we’re doing, and we are full steam ahead to fulfill the board’s directive,” countered Mosier.

Even if it taxes a transportation system that is already drawing criticism for its inconsistency at delivering students to school on time and taking them home.