Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman was denied a request to speak about bus services at a Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, he said in a statement.
The school system attorneys said it would need to be in a closed session because it involves contracts, but Pittman said it needed to be public because the public is paying the price.
“When I learned this morning that today we have 80 routes impacting 38 schools without bus service and that many of the drivers at Annapolis Bus Company are continuing to stay home. I decided that we’ve done enough talking. Transportation is a fundamental obligation of Anne Arundel County Public Schools, and it must be provided,” Pittman said in a statement.
Pittman said only way to solve this issue is to provide drivers with livable wages. He said they have had discussions about hiring bonuses, retention bonuses and higher hourly wages. He said they’ve also talked about the school system American Rescue Plan dollars, county ARP dollars and future county budgets.
“The next step is that the school system must put a proposal on the table. That’s what will give drivers hope that conditions will improve, and inspire others to apply for those jobs,” Pittman said in a statement. “That’s what I hoped to say at today’s Board of Education meeting. I felt that it was important for the board, the whole board, in open session to hear that my administration is committed to supporting a plan, but that we need one - now.”
Alex Szachnowicz, chief operating office of Transportation said they had a meeting with bus contractors on Sept. 30 and will have another meeting on Wednesday to figure out plans for what’s next.
A new platform to communicate if a bus route will be impacted or delayed is set to release later this week, Szachnowicz said. Around 60 routes were labeled as chronically impacted, meaning no driver, but is down to 15 now.
“They all haven’t been resolved by new drivers some have been from combining routes and other actions,” he added. “It is an improvement but we still need those 60 plus drivers.”
Vaccinations for student athletes
The Evening Sun
Superintendent George Arlotto plan’s moves forward to vaccinate student athletes or require them to be tested, after hours of discussion between board members. Two motions failed: one motion to suspend the school system from requiring students to vaccinate or get tested and another to make the winter unified sport participants be exempt from requirements.
One motion passed to create a committee that is made up of coaches, parents and more to review and report to the superintendent and board on the requirements. It passed 7-0-1 with Dana Schallheim, District 5, abstaining.
Schallheim, District 5, said she is in full support for vaccines and testing for staff but local school systems have never been asked to require vaccines or test to students, that is usually a state’s role. She said she would abstain from any vote on the matter.
Arlotto said he wants to keep the student athletes safe to the best of his ability. He wanted to make clear that this is not a vaccination mandate it is a choice.
A process for submitting vaccination certifications and a weekly testing protocol will be announced by mid-October, according to a news release the system previously released. The school system is also finalizing a contract with a vendor to provide the testing of unvaccinated students whose families provide consent to do so. Symptomatic students and staff can be tested in school health rooms.
The next Board of Education meeting will be Oct. 20 at 6 p.m.