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A recent performance audit of Anne Arundel County Public Schools found the school system is not managing its transportation services efficiently.

Parents in the county have expressed frustration over school busing issues, such as frequent problems with changed routes, crowded buses and a lack of drivers. The Maryland Office of Legislative Audits cited the absence of formal targets and goals for revising bus routes as one of the problems.

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The legislative audit agency previously recommended that Anne Arundel County Public Schools purchase an automated bus routing software to improve busing issues. Despite owning this software, the school system “did not fully use this tool to identify alternative routes, route consolidation or bus stop consolidation that might reduce costs,” the report said.

Although the school system agrees that identifying metrics is the best practice for efficiency, it does “not fully agree that setting universal or rigid ridership targets for individual trips based on the capacity of each bus is an effective strategy.”

The audit suggests that buses should pick up more students on certain bus routes to save costs, but overcrowding has been a concern for the Anne Arundel County school board and parents who say their children have had to sit on laps or stand. The school system said they feel a better way to approach the issue is by analyzing the amount of daily trips a bus can make, rather than increasing the number of students on each trip.

The school system is also facing challenges to hire and maintain certified drivers.

Around 61,000 students qualify to receive transportation services on nearly 600 buses, 550 of which were owned by contractors in 2018, according to the audit. In 2017, transportation costs totaled $56 million, with $48.2 million, or 86%, representing payments for contracted bus services.

Contracted bus drivers get paid an average of $21 an hour, Alex Szachnowicz, chief operating officer for the school system, said in September. And although the school system pays for drivers to become certified, drivers can leave after receiving training for other opportunities with a higher rate of pay.

The performance audit found that the county public school system has not performed an analysis of its bus contractor payment process for almost 20 years. Additionally, payment to contractors was not always properly calculated and were not always in compliance with contract terms, the report said.

The school system responded to the Office of Legislative Audits, detailing its plan to annually review its competitive bidding process for contractors against other schools that use a per vehicle allotment payment model. Anne Arundel Public Schools also said it will verify contracted drivers’ reported time and mileage reports to the time and miles it takes to travel specific bus routes.

“Certainly any chance we have to improve the delivery of services or systems or initiatives for our students and staff are the ones we want to take advantage of,” Bob Mosier, spokesperson for Anne Arundel Count Public Schools, said.

The school system is waiting on a report with recommendations from a transportation consultant, Prismatic Services Inc., it hired earlier this year to look at daily school bus routes, school start times and ways to improve the transportation department. At the school board meeting on Wednesday, Szachnowicz said the audit’s findings would be part of the discussion with the consultants and taken into consideration.

The report also included findings relating to procurement, equipment control and information technology, one of which stated AACPS’ network resources were not secured against improper access from high school students using school computer labs and media centers.

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