PHENIX CITY, Ala. — Phenix City Schools officials are responding to a terrifying experience for a local family, whose young child was dropped off with a stranger after riding the bus.
Phenix City Schools Superintendent Randy Wilkes calls Monday’s incident “terribly unfortunate.” News 3 spoke with Wilkes about how he dealt with the situation. The student was picked up at Phenix City Elementary but dropped off at the wrong location.
Wilkes says the teacher overseeing the child placed him on the right bus, just at the wrong time. The superintendent says the bus ran two routes. The kindergartner got on the first route, which dropped him off at the high school bus stop. Wilkes says the student should have taken the route one hour later. The superintendent adds that this incident will make them more careful in the future.
“Yesterday, 99.97% of all students got home as they should have,” Wilkes said. “Again, there’s no consoling the parent when .03% is your child. And that’s the most important thing to that parent.”
Wilkes says the child was picked up by a woman once he got off the bus. The mother called the school, and eventually the child’s mother picked up the student. Wilkes believes more emphasis should be placed on identifying students and routes before the school year starts to avoid incidents like this.
Meanwhile, people are sounding off on social media about similar situations. Wilkes says the school district will not change its transportation policy in the wake of this case.
A few miles West in Lee County, a concerned parent — who wishes to remain anonymous — told News 3 one of her kids was allowed on the bus, but not her five-year-old. School staff told the mother because the kindergartner did not ride the bus earlier that morning. She says some of the policy surrounding bus transportation is confusing.
“Well, I thought it was the school’s responsibility to provide transportation if they’re in the school district,” the parent said. “They should be consistent, and not let one do it and not the other because that puts people in a bind, especially when you have two kids.”
A similar incident happened in Wacoochee, where a student did not ride the bus to the school. However, they planned on riding the bus home. That student was kept at school until their parent came to pick them up.
“The first day is always a little rough road,” Lee County Schools Transportation Director Lee Lindsay said. “Misunderstandings of where they live, or they got on the wrong bus by accident. They were trying to prevent a child, who would’ve been a stranger to a bus driver, from getting on the incorrect bus and being delayed.”
Phenix City Schools transports about 3,500 students, while Lee County Schools transport about 6,800 students. Both Lee County Schools and Phenix City Schools expect a lot of the transportation issues to be resolved by the end of the week.
Parents and staff prepare for the worst. They just hope these situations don’t happen again.