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Carroll schools transportation works to fix schedule kinks

Changed bus routes have proved to be a headache to some parents in Carroll County as the first week of school comes to a close. But transportation department officials say a few glitches were to be expected and things have been improving as each day passes.

Taneytown resident Marc Howarth, who has a son in second grade at Runnymede Elementary School, said this week has been frustrating. The buses are taking both a long time to leave the schools and to drop kids at their stops, he said.

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"This is all new this year," Howarth said of his troubles.

Last year, if the bus was late it would be only 5 minutes or so, he said. This year, the bus was a half hour late on the first day and about 15 minutes late the second two days.

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"There's no schedule," he said.

Mike Hardesty, the director of transportation for Carroll County Public Schools, said these types of problems are somewhat expected during the first week.

About 40 percent of the bus routes had changes this year, Hardesty said, and quite a few happened at Runnymede Elementary, where several students were relocated from since-closed Charles Carroll Elementary. The Board of Education voted 4-1 in December to close Charles Carroll, along with North Carroll High and New Windsor Middle schools, citing declining enrollment systemwide.

"There's no doubt that there were a lot of changes to our bus routes this year," he said. "The first day of school there's always going to be some delays."

On the first day — and first week — there are students, teachers and drivers alike who could be new to routes or the system, Hardesty said. There were several buses the first day that were late, a number that was less on the second day of school. By Wednesday, he said, things were running more smoothly.

Many of the buses have first-tier, second-tier and third-tier routes — meaning they're carrying students to different schools throughout the day. That can throw off the schedule quite a bit if just one bus on one tier has an issue. That's what happened with Runnymede Elementary, Hardesty said.

There was a lot of delay in the second tier, which pushed things back for the third tier — Runnymede.

"When we identify a problem, we look to see what the issue could be," Hardesty said.

We encourage drivers to plan a few additional minutes into their commute time and take extra caution around school buses.

That's what they've been doing this week. "It's gotten better each and every day," he said.

Overall, Hardesty said, it's been a normal opening for the school year. There've been few buses that are overcrowded and the issues they have seen just take a few days to work out the kinks, he said.

By Friday, he said, schedules and routes will likely be worked out. The department will take a look at first-week reports the bus drivers provide them, and update schedules and times based on those reports.

"Overall, it's been a very good, very smooth opening," Hardesty said.

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