ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — A new report from a North Carolina-based consulting firm includes more than two dozen recommendations to address school bus transportation issues and bus driver shortages within Anne Arundel County Public Schools.
Anne Arundel County is one of a number of Maryland counties that saw bus driver shortages as the 2019-2020 academic year began, prompting concerns from area parents.
In its 179-page report released Wednesday, the firm made a total of 27 recommendations to combat the school system’s transportation woes, including improving bus driver retention by requiring the contractors that operate around 90 percent of the county’s buses to increase drivers’ pay, working with the system’s human resources office to develop a strategic recruitment plan for drivers and reviewing and consolidating bus routes where possible.
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The report estimates that consolidating routes and requiring weekly student headcounts could save nearly $2.5 million and improve system operations.
In September, school officials said the contractors that operate most of the county’s buses were short about 20 drivers at the beginning of the school year. In nearby Baltimore County, the school system said it was short nearly 50 drivers in the northeastern part of the county, leading to delays in students being picked up and dropped off.
Also included in the report is a recommendation to prepare and implement a new facility master plan specifically for transportation facilities at an estimated $37.5 million cost.
The master plan would also help to improve operations and bus maintenance, the report said.
Other recommendations include hiring three staff members to focus on bus routing and a fourth to oversee the use of a geographic information system program to route buses and looking into whether to stagger school start times between lower and upper grades to optimize bussing.
In his $1.36 billion fiscal year 2021 budget released last month, Superintendent George Arlotto called for adding eight new bus aides to comply with federal guidelines for students with disabilities and funding seven more transportation positions, including two lead bus drivers, the bus routing staff and two administrators.
Combined, the new staff and equipment associated with their hiring would cost more than $1 million.
Over the past decade, the county has seen an increase of around 5,000 eligible student riders while the number of contractor buses has increased by around 100, according to the report.
By Digital Content Producer Logan Reigstad