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A consultant outlined 27 recommendations that could improve Anne Arundel Public Schools transportation and concluded that the system currently struggles with a "lack of procedural guidelines, legacy ways of work and limited use of technology,” according to the report.

Prismatic Services, a North Carolina-based consulting firm, was hired last year to study school start times, daily school bus routing and how the district’s transportation department could improve its practices.

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Its report, made public Wednesday, found that people who participated in the project wanted recommendations on school start times, but the company called that a “leadership decision, not a transportation decision.”

School board member Dana Schallheim agreed that start times should be a decision made by the Board of Education.

“I want to see all of our students benefit from healthy and age-appropriate start times," she said.

The nearly 180-page report conducted surveys with parents and school employees, collected data and field observations to enlist ways that the transportation department could improve.

The recommendations review ways the department can not only improve efficiency but also effectiveness.

When asked to grade the district’s transportation, over half of parents gave the school system an A or B grade.

To do so, the department could reorganize internal structure like the management of drivers and aides while also increasing the number of routing and geographic information system staff.

School board member Julie Hummer said that previous budgets have focused on other areas like teachers and classrooms meant a lack of investment in transportation.

“Our transportation needs were becoming more and more complex and we weren’t keeping up with what we needed.”

Superintendent George Arlotto’s proposed budget would add seven positions within the transportation department for routing and communication. Hummer called it a first step to address investment.

Within the transportation department, the report recommended items like providing training, improving hiring and recruitment, revising job descriptions, reviewing performances, and redesigning the workflow of staff all in an effort to better the transportation team.

Out of the report, 16 recommendations would either not cost the school system or have a low expense. School board vice president Melissa Ellis noted that the majority of the recommendations do not require budget action and so moving forward, changes have to happen with the department.

“I cannot impact the operational decisions ― I can impact policy and budget. I think it is a matter of sitting down with Dr. Arlotto and (schools COO Alex) Szachnowicz and finding out from them, what they plan to do with this and deciding from there," Ellis said.

The most costly recommendation, nearly $38 million, is to create a transportation facility. The one-time cost would have a central bus location for maintenance like repair, fuel and parking.

The central office transportation building, built first as a school in 1921, has aged without any protections and is better to be left vacant or sold, according to the report. The firm called it insufficient and “not an appropriate work environment.”

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Other recommendations review bus vendor relationships and requiring more in contracts such as incentives for adding GPS to buses and increasing hourly wage to reduce turnover.

Prismatic also conducted surveys from 6,268 parents and 95 school administrators. When asked to grade the district’s transportation, over half of parents gave the school system an A or B grade.

For regular transportation, nearly 40% of administrators gave the district an A or B and 62% gave the district and A or B for special education transportation. But the report noted that “at least 15 percent graded AACPS transportation as a D or F.”

The school district also received praise for areas such as driver training, athletic trips, walk zones and vehicle maintenance.

In general, to improve practices the report states that the department should move away from a “we’ve always done it this way mentality” and increase transparency with procedures like contractor pay.

Despite feeling “mind blown," Schallheim said the report is an opportunity to improve the transportation department, and to make experiences for students better.

“I see the report as a gigantic opportunity to benefit all of our students,” she said.

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