Parents of a three-year-old girl in Hammonds Plains, N.S., say they’ve completely lost faith in the busing system after their daughter wasn’t dropped off at school and was found on the bus about 15 kilometres away.
Ashley Verge says at 8:20 a.m. on Monday, her daughter got on the bus with her older sister, who attends Kingswood Elementary School. Her youngest daughter is the pre-primary program, which is located in a separate building.
Verge thought everything was fine, until her husband Andrew received a call at around 9:10 a.m. from a teacher who said their daughter wasn’t there.
“There was a half an hour time block where we didn’t know what had happened to her — they didn’t know where she was, if she was still on the bus or not,” said Verge.
Verge says the busing company eventually called to let them know their daughter was located on the same bus, which at that point was in Lower Sackville, 15 kilometres away.
“Our child was crying and saying, ‘Daddy, I was all alone.’ It was heartbreaking.”
She says the bus driver even picked up and dropped off a whole busload of students without noticing the three-year-old was still there.
“We tried to make it like it wasn’t a big deal. We said, ‘Oh, you got to ride on the bus with the big kids,’ because that’s where she had been for the last two hours,” said Verge. “She was on the bus and the bus driver didn’t even know.”
In a statement to Global News, Southland Transportation said a full investigation has been conducted and they’ve followed up with the Verge family.
“Our investigation determined that the driver missed doing a child check between routes,” said Coady MacNeil, operations manager at Southland Transportation, in a statement. “After dropping off pre-primary students the bus proceeded to its next school drop off where it was discovered that the pre-primary student was still on board.”
MacNeil says the driver returned to the school and dropped the student off with a school staff member. He added that in response to the incident, Southland is conducting refresher training on child checks between drop-offs with all drivers.
Doug Hadley, spokesperson for the Halifax Regional Centre for Education, says they have also reached out to the family to apologize.
“We’ve also made it abundantly clear that this cannot happen,” said Hadley. “Parents have a reasonable expectation that their child is going to be delivered to school safely, and it can’t happen again.”
The Education Department says the recent spike in drivers retiring has resulted in some of the busing issues. Education Minister Zach Churchill told Global News on Tuesday that the retirements are impacting schools in Dartmouth, Sackville and the Kingswood area.
Churchill said they’ve currently filled 10 of 30 vacant positions and expects the busing issues to decrease as more hiring is completed.
But Verge says it’s too little too late, and that she has completely lost faith in the busing system.
“They’re in charge of our most precious children and I wouldn’t trust them to look after my cat.”