Salem bus driver: I have 60 kids to find

9-5-13-salem keizer bus
Salem-Keizer school buses transport about 20,000 students every school day. Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013, was the first day of the 2013-2014 school year. (KOIN 6 News)

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — Eight Salem-area kids were left at the wrong bus stop on the first day of school Wednesday, according to the Salem-Keizer school district.

“My heart started pounding, I started sweating,” said the mother of one of the children who didn’t get off the bus as planned. “Where’s my kid? That was my biggest fear.”

All eight eventually found their way home, according to the district. But now the parents of two of those children — both 6-year-old girls — say the district’s safety procedures need to be tightened.

“Six years old is too young to be alone wandering the streets,” said Danita, the mother of one of the girls.

Salem-Keizer Public Schools spokesperson Michael Shields talks to KOIN 6 News Sept. 5, 2013. (KOIN 6 News)
Salem-Keizer Public Schools spokesperson Michael Shields talks to KOIN 6 News Sept. 5, 2013. (KOIN 6 News)

Salem-Keizer school buses transport about 20,000 students every school day. Wednesday was the first day of first grade for Danita’s 6-year-old foster daughter.

“She was real excited to ride the bus, because it was one of her first experiences,” Danita said.

Danita dropped her daughter off at Chavez Elementary Wednesday morning — with a note for the bus driver with instructions on where to drop her off. But when the bus rolled up at 4 p.m., her daughter was nowhere in sight.

“Where’s my child? I was in panic mode,” Danita said. “The neighbor was with me; she couldn’t find her child either.”

The two questioned the bus driver, who didn’t have an answer.

“I said ‘She’s 6 years old, where did you let her off?’ And the bus driver held up his clipboard and said, ‘I have 60 kids that I have to try to find, and this is all I have.”

The girls were supposed to have been dropped off at a stop along Fisher Road, just feet from their front doors. With two or three entrances to the apartment complex, the girls were left on the opposite side of the complex — somewhere along Coral Street. That stop was up to two blocks away.

9-5-13-salem keizer pack
On Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013, Danita’s foster daughter went to school with this sign on her pack — in the hopes it will help her bus driver drop her off closer to home. (Courtesy photo)

It took a few minutes, but the girls did find their way home. The district reports this bus-stop confusion isn’t uncommon for the first day of school, but a spokesperson said it’s ultimately the child’s and parent’s responsibility to know which stop is theirs.

“Kids have to have an awareness of where they live and what their location is,” said Michael Shields, director of transportation for Salem-Keizer Public Schools.

And so on Thursday Danita’s daughter went to school with a sign on her pack. She hopes this makes today’s trip home a little less eventful.

“We’ll take information, say, ‘How did this occur?’ ‘What opportunities to have to make changes or improve?’ and institute those later,” Shields said.

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