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