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Readers Respond

Anne Arundel faces school transportation, start time crisis | READER COMMENTARY

Any system implementing a change to 100,000-plus stakeholders with the lack of staff to do so should hold additional meetings to make the transition safe and successful. At the July 13 meeting of the Anne Arundel County Board of Education, an extra meeting proposal was defeated, and the safety of 84,000 Anne Arundel County Public Schools students continues to be in jeopardy.

The Anne Arundel County Board of Education states that other districts are experiencing transportation crises, but we are the only county implementing a drastic start time change to compound the already dire situation (”As transportation issues remain, Anne Arundel school contractors and parents raise concerns about start time change,” May 15). These changes add to the crisis because crossing guards and bus drivers can’t double up on routes and crosswalks. With so many buses out of service, traffic around schools is dangerous, and students will now be crossing intersections without help.

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Child care is also an issue for many of our families. Many parents who relied on older children are scrambling for child care that isn’t available and if it is, is unaffordable. More affordable county programs do not have the appropriate staff, and so many programs that have shut down have not reopened. Board members previously stated that families should not rely on older children to care for their siblings. What did they suggest at the last meeting? Child care job opportunities for high schoolers, those very same students who were not to be “burdened.”

The school board asked families for help with this change, but with 45 to 50 buses still out of service and child care unavailable, how? We finally sent our students back to school this year, despite the daily disruptions with transportation outages. From virtual to hybrid to in-person, quarantines, contact tracing, masks, rising behavior issues, learning loss, a mental health crisis — the list goes on — students and staff have been through the ringer. Last year was anything but normal, so you might excuse us if we don’t have it in us to “man up” and become crossing guards or bus drivers and accept this change. So many of us are still scrambling to adjust our work schedules and find child care for this change. And, without a way to get our children safely to school, most of us will have to be available to drive or walk our students, too.

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County Executive Steuart Pittman and Anne Arundel County Council members, bus companies, families and staff all pleaded to delay a year. The board did not listen. We are in a crisis in AACPS and, once again, families and staff will bear the burden.

— Elizabeth Fine, Gambrills

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