A group of angry parents of pupils at Cecil Elementary School say their children have been kept waiting - some more than an hour - for buses to take them to temporary classrooms in Northeast Baltimore and back.
The buses are supposed to arrive outside the Cecil playground at 7:15 a.m. to take the children to the Samuel L. Banks Professional Development Center several miles away, where classes have been temporarily relocated during a yearlong renovation project.
But parents say the buses have arrived anywhere from 30 minutes to more than an hour late during the first week of school - leaving their children tired and irritable from standing outside on the playground.
"It's hard on those children to be there for the bus at 7 o'clock when they don't get on the bus until 8:30," said Kelly Parker, whose son, Jemarr Smith, 7, is a first-grader at Cecil.
The buses arrived on time Tuesday, the first day of school, when city schools chief Carmen V. Russo, state Schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick and other officials went along for a ceremonial opening-day ride.
"That was a show-off," said Fowlkes. "That's the only reason they [were] there early."
Principal James Drummond said the buses have been running "a few minutes late" in the morning and the afternoon. But he said he and several teacher aides have been there to supervise the children.
Nearly all of Cecil's 400 pupils rely on the buses to take them from the 2000 block of Cecil Ave. to their temporary school at 2500 E. Northern Parkway.
"Any time you try something new, there are going to be some bugs," he said. "This is the first week.This is something new for my parents. They're going to just have to be patient until the situation works itself out."
In the case of bad weather, he said, the pupils would be directed to a nearby recreation center.
Drummond said the school system's transportation division, which has contracted with a private operator to bus the children, has assured him that "they're doing everything they can do to get them there on time."
"We hope to have it ironed out by Monday," he said.