- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 26, 2004

School buses were late and overcrowded during the first week of school in Prince George’s County, some county parents say.

“It made me angry,” said Lisa Colmain, whose child attends fifth grade at Rosaryville Elementary School in Upper Marlboro. “Even the kids are standing there complaining.”

Rosaryville classes begin at 7:45 a.m. Mrs. Colmain said the bus picked up her child at 7:50 a.m. on Monday, the first day of school, at 8 a.m. on Tuesday and 7:55 a.m. on Wednesday.

The pickup is scheduled for 7:28 a.m. Mrs. Colmain said the bus was only five minutes late yesterday.

“Hopefully, they’ve got the kinks ironed out,” she said.

A student at Surrattsville High School in Clinton said she and five or six other students had to stand in the bus aisle because of overcrowding, said the girl’s mother, Terri Myaing.

School officials acknowledged that Mrs. Colmain was not the only parent to complain, but said they have no record on the number of complaints.

However, the officials said they have had fewer complaints than in recent years. About 97,000 students ride on 11,070 bus routes.

“It’s really a smooth transition this year,” said Lynn McCawley, a spokeswoman for the Prince George’s County public school system. “The first week is usually rough, with complaints about late buses and questions about routes.”

Michael Dodson, director of the county’s school transportation system, acknowledged some delays, despite test runs for bus drivers last week. But he said this year has “definitely been smoother.”

He attributed the improvement, in part, to the continuing use of computers in plotting routes and making adjustments. The computer maps about 75 percent of the routes, Mr. Dodson said.

“We’ll have to do some hand routing — about 25 percent,” he said. “I really think this year we’ve gotten more [comfortable with] the computer-routing system.”

He said parents waiting with children going to school for the first time caused some of the delays.

“They will get on the bus with the children and talk to them,” Mr. Dodson said. “Each stop causes a backup of five or six minutes.”

He said that he expects that next week, students will be more acclimated and rides will be shorter.

“The drivers get used to it; the kids get used to it,” Mr. Dodson said.

A receptionist at Rosaryville said late buses during the first week is “nothing out of the ordinary” and that fewer buses arrived late after the first day.

Rosaryville, which opened two years ago, is one of the newest schools in the county. Enrollment in Prince George’s elementary, middle and high schools is about 137,000.

School officials said a kindergarten student at Beltsville Elementary School returning from class this week got off the bus at the wrong stop but was returned to her parents about 30 minutes later.

Kelly Alexander, a county schools spokeswoman, said the bus driver and the child were new to the situation and that residents found the child and called the parents’ phone number, which was pinned to the child’s clothing, as recommended by school officials.

“We’re all learning,” she said. “It was a happy ending.”

Other students were on time but had no seats once they arrived at school.

School officials said at least 43 students at Largo High School were not allowed to attend classes because the school did not have their schedules. The officials said the problem was the result of a computer failure and a freshman class that is larger than usual.

Principal Richmond Myrick said most of the students were not preregistered, though some parents said otherwise.

Andre J. Hornsby, county schools CEO, said the students would have their seats even if officials had to write the schedules by hand.

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