A handful of parents whose children were stranded in the cold last Thursday morning when a school bus never showed up are calling this week for the schools to institute a backup plan for such situations – something that currently doesn’t exist.
At least four parents expressed frustration over the situation that unfolded Thursday morning when about 20 middle schoolers from the Garfield Middle School were never picked up at their Derby Road stop at 6:45 a.m.
Only one parent, however, would go on the record to voice those frustrations.
“The issue is that there is no backup plan,” said parent Stacie Bravo this week. “Everything is black and white and there is no room for mistakes. If a bus with 20 honors students from the other side of the city doesn’t show up for school, that should trigger something. There should be someone who would notice that. When I finally heard, I called the office and they didn’t seem to know anything had happened. My son said there were empty buses driving by that could have stopped or called in the fact that the kids were still there and apparently, no one did until a lot later. It’s just appalling that they just leave the kids outside and that seems to be ok.”
Bravo – the parent of an 11-year-old 6th grader – said the kids were dropped off at the stop as normal last Thursday, a morning that was about 20 degrees. She said that by 7:15 a.m., her son called in a panic and said the bus had never come by and none of the kids knew what to do.
After a call to the school, which was transferred to a voicemail machine, and five other calls that weren’t answered, Bravo decided she had to postpone work for the morning.
Some of the kids walked all the way from Derby Road to the Garfield, more than a mile, in the cold.
Others, like her son, continued to wait for the bus. Bravo, who is a visiting nurse, had to put her patients on hold and beat it back to Revere. By 7:45 a.m., she said she had arrived to pick him, and others still waiting, up.
“These kids felt abandoned in the cold and the dark; they were scared,” she said.
Bravo said she also didn’t feel that Principal Samantha Meier was that accommodating upon arrival, hurrying them to class and not reacting with the shock Bravo had expected.
Supt. Dianne Kelly said the situation evolved on Thursday when the contract bus company, Healy Bus, had a substitute driver for the Derby Road stop. That driver did not take the usual route, she said, and missed the Derby Road stop. She said another bus was quickly re-routed to pick the kids up, but some did end up walking and some didn’t get to the school.
Bravo said she doesn’t believe another bus ever came by to pick up the kids because when she arrived – an hour after the usual pick up – no bus had come for them.
Kelly said they are looking into the situation.
“They are supplying video fro that day and this bus to see what went wrong,” said Kelly.
She said they do not do spot checks to make sure buses have picked up kids in cold weather, as there are too many buses.
“We do not do spot checks on the bus routes for things like that,” she said. “We have so many buses going through the city…We could spend $100,000 checking our bus routes, but we would have to fire teachers. That would affect class size and I don’t think we want that…With all the buses we have going between the neighborhoods, it’s not bad to have one bus miss one stop on one day. We’re into day 80 of the school year and we’ve had 79 days without a problem.”
That said, Kelly is thinking about adding some sort of bus hotline or notification system to allow for calls to come into a person and not get put over to voicemail.
“That is something that might be a good idea,” she said. “We don’t want parents or kids calling for something like that and getting transferred.”
Several kids at the bus stop on Derby Road last Friday, one day after the group was left out in the cold when their bus to the Garfield Middle School never showed up. Parents are calling for a backup plan to be put in place to accommodate such situations.