Story of Ontario girl left alone in park a lesson for other families

WATCH ABOVE: The story of a Grade 1 student mistakenly put on a school bus and left at a park alone has led to social media outcry by other parents who are worried about their own kids’ safety. As Caryn Lieberman reports, there are some things to keep in mind to avoid a similar situation.

TORONTO — Two days since school started and the story of one little Bradford girl, mistakenly put on a school bus and left at a park by herself for nearly an hour, is resonating with parents across the province.

Sarena, whose mother Juliette requested that we only use their first names, was dropped off in the afternoon at the school bus stop where she should be picked up in the mornings. As a result, no one was there to greet her.

Her mom, a doula, was helping to deliver a baby in Toronto and was unaware of the mix-up at the Simcoe County school. Juliette credits the kindness of a passerby who stopped when she noticed six-year-old Sarena alone at the park and alerted the school.

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It’s stories like little Sarena’s that have Toronto mother Maryam Mirshams avoiding the school bus altogether. Her daughter, Ava, is four years old and started school this week.

“I heard a lot of confusion stories on social media and I’m kind of happy I didn’t send her to the school bus,” she said, adding that she plans to drop off her daughter and pick her up.

That doesn’t mean Ava’s first day went off without a hitch either.

“We didn’t know where to drop off, pick up, the parking lot was closed at the school so they told us not to go to the parking lot, we had to find another parking spot,” she said, adding that communication is key, especially for parents of first time students.

Candy Canning is a mother of two, and an experienced childcare provider, who currently works as a daycare supervisor, but also used to run an after school and before school program.

“First days become crazy and then stuff falls through the cracks, people don’t end up where the should be,” she said, offering advice for parents.

“A parent can tell their child, no you’re not getting on the bus, you’re going to after school care, you don’t leave the school, and really make sure your child gets that.

“Send a note, email, make sure that they know, even the principal, whatever it takes to make sure that teacher knows where the kid is going.”

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At Canada’s largest school board, the Toronto District School Board, spokesperson Ryan Bird says transportation is down to a science. With thousands of kids, bus routes and buses, they have no choice but to be extremely organized.

They also have a program that Bird said keeps things “simple.”

“We have something called the purple equals parent program. It’s relatively simple,” he said. “There’s a purple tag on the backpack, that tells bus driver that child is not getting off the bus until their parent or guardian is waiting for them.”

Back at Rippleton Public School, little Ava Mirshams is doing just fine.

“She’s a very social kid, she was very happy,” said her mom.

And that’s been a big comfort for Maryam Mirshams, who has spent a lot of time worrying this week after some first week jitters and social media stories from other moms whose children were sent to places they shouldn’t be.

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