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Starting School Later Busing Options

What if kids from adjoining schools rode the bus together?

So, just thinking out loud (or in text).  If we wanted to start school later in Howard County, there are several options.  In all of my reading about other school systems that have made the change, there are dozens of options - no two seem the same.  The easiest method might be to allow High Schools to open later while elementary schools open earlier.  This would meet the biological needs of both groups.  I understand this could make it easier for some parents to get off to work if their younger kids were off at school earlier.  However, this could also make it harder on some parents if their older child isn't home before a younger child to watch their younger sibling. 

Another thought, Howard County seems to have an advantage in some school areas that others may not have.  Our schools are often built close or just next door to each other.  For example, Pointers Run Elementary is just across the street from Clarksville Middle School; Reservoir High School, Lime Kiln Middle School, and Fulton Elementary are all built on their own access road about 100 yards apart; Wild Lake Middle and High Schools are very close; Glenwood Middle School and Bushy Park Elementary are neighbors; Folly Quarter Middle and Triadelphia Ridge Elementary are neighbors; Burleigh Manor Middle School and Centennial High School share the same driveway.

Why can't these schools start at the same time?  Pick up kids who attend adjoining schools at the same bus stop at the same time and drop them off either at one school or stop at one school then go to the next.  For example, if elementary or middle school kids got dropped off at Pointers Run Elementary then the older middle school kids could just walk across the street to get to school.  There are already 5-6 teachers out on the car loop.  Perhaps one more could serve as a crossing guard and assure they get there safely.  There are so many parent volunteers at both those schools I bet we could get the PTA to get parents to sign up to be a crossing monitor a few days a year!  Then after school, just do the opposite.  Then middle school older siblings are walking their little brothers and sisters home.  Could we actually save money on busing?  I can tell you my kid’s bus is never full  – not even close.  This is a waste of time, money, and kids' sleep.

Another thought, who schedules our buses?  I have shared that I am a father in Howard County and I assure you there is nothing more important to my wife and me than our kids.  So I'm sure you'll understand when I compare my precious children to precious cargo or precious packages.  There are companies out there who have figured out the most effective ways to deliver packages to be time effective, gas-saving, and "always on time".  Sound familiar?  Have we ever, maybe on a State of Maryland basis, considered consulting with UPS or FedEx?  Like the idea above, what if we got kids to school based on zones and not on school age?  What if we utilized our buses more efficiently and instead of picking up kids at multiple stops and dropping them off at one school, what if we picked them up at a few stops and dropped them off at multiple schools??

These are just some ideas that could save us time, money, and our children's brains!   I know there are problems and concerns with any change, but none of them are inconceivable.  Small changes in how we get our kids to and from school could improve grades, family’s lives, communities, and even sibling relationships.  I can't tell you how much better I would have felt if my 7th grader was on the bus with, and could walk home with, my 5th grader.  On days when I needed to pick them up I could pick them up at the same time or even be a little late getting home from work knowing my younger one was escorted home from the bus.  What a great option!

If you agree that school in Howard County should start later please sign our petition at http://tinyurl.com/sslhoco

Yours in Service,
Mark Donovan, Proud Dad

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Stacy Simera February 19, 2013 at 04:09 PM
Kudos - this is what it is about - coming up with ideas and being part of the solution. I know a school that talked about the idea of having the earlier-starting elementary kids stay at an after-school program until their older siblings got out of school - and letting the younger kids ride home with big brother or sister. We are a very creative nation - so solutions to the problem of teen sleep deprivation really shouldn't be out of our reach.
edb February 19, 2013 at 06:26 PM
Mr. Donovan, in a perfect world this would be a great idea....but have you ever walked into your child's middle school in the middle of the day at lunch? There is a reason why elementary school children are in a different building than middle schoolers. I for one wouldn't want my 8 year old coming home with the language of a lot of middle schoolers. There are also happenings that occur on the middle school buses that I really don't want my 8 year old to be subjected to. This would just be an accident waiting to happen to small children. Now maybe if they would look at middle school and high school riding the same bus....that would be a very different story. Good for you for thinking of a solution to the problem.
Mark Donovan February 19, 2013 at 07:13 PM
edb; I certainly see your point. I have been in elementary and middle schools and high schools and I agree there is a difference in appropriate behavior standards. I do believe that some of that is because they are separated and because the behavior is allowed. I certainly think there would be an adjustment period but after a new set of rules are learned, I think most of our kids will act appropriately in mixed age settings. One option might be to have bus aides on the bus - that may cost more but it could be off set by the cost of less buses or more efficient use of buses. I also think that less bus stops would help. In my neighborhood, there are three bus stops, all one block apart within sight of each other. It would be much more efficient to ask all the kids to meet at one stop in the middle. If the elementary kids were picked up with the middle and high school kids it is likely my neighborhood would fill up one bus, but then that bus could go to another area where school starts 30 minutes later. I also know, at least in my little part of the world, that there would be parents at the bus stop to keep older kid in line while waiting for the bus. There are always parents out with the elementary kids. I do think it is doable with some modifications. I still think a better idea would be to consult with UPS or FedEX - the experts in delivery of precious packages :) Petition: http://tinyurl.com/sslhoco Mark
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