Howard Co. public schools superintendent announces mobile app as bus routes remain suspended

The app will “allow families who ride Zum buses to track their child’s bus in real-time,” Martirano wrote in the email. 

The superintendent of Howard County Public Schools in Maryland announced Friday that while suspended bus routes have yet to be reinstated in what he recently called a “transportation crisis,” an upcoming mobile app will help keep families informed about bus statuses in the future.

Superintendent Michael Martirano said in a Friday email to students and their families that the county is going through “final testing and quality control assurances” for a mobile application from Zum Transportation, one of its independent contractors.

On Monday night, the contractor said it did not have the drivers needed to service 20 routes during the first week of classes. In another statement Friday, Zum confirmed the same 20 routes will still be out of service this coming week.

The app will “allow families who ride Zum buses to track their child’s bus in real-time,” Martirano wrote in the email.

“This will provide much-needed information for parents and families at your fingertips so you can plan accordingly,” the email said. “We expect to launch the application midweek next week. Until that time, the HCPSS Office of Communications will send emails and text messages to families as we become aware that a bus is significantly delayed.”

Zum signed a contract with Howard County Public Schools in June to operate 250 buses. The company has apologized for the disruptions and said it is working with school officials to fix the problems surrounding the driver shortage.

“To ensure the utmost safety for our children, prospective drivers must train extensively, and pass State-level certifications,” said Zum in its Friday statement. “This year, we experienced a significant logjam in this State certification process, but we are working to certify all drivers in a safe and timely manner.”

According to Zum, the contractor has brought in certified drivers from its other locations to temporarily serve Howard County as it continues to train new hires.

Zum added that the school district’s three new bell schedules — one for elementary schools, middle schools and high schools — have led to “stacked” bus routes, which can delay drivers.

“Stacking routes means that, while one of our drivers may be fully on time in delivering elementary school students, he or she might be late when delivering middle or high school students,” the statement read.

“I know many of our families served by the routes that were suspended earlier this week are eager for news of those routes being reinstated,” Martirano wrote in Friday’s email. “We are working as quickly as possible to restore these routes. As soon as we are able to share any additional information, I will provide another update.”

WTOP’s Kate Corliss contributed to this report.

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