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Some Funkstown kindergartners dropped at wrong bus stop

August 22, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN -- Three children, ages 4 and 5, were dropped off at the wrong bus stop Thursday afternoon and found running along the street in downtown Hagerstown, according to a parent.

Two other kindergartners from the same Washington County public school boarded the wrong bus Thursday afternoon in a separate incident, school system officials said.

Officials said the problems were caused by unprocessed paperwork and a miscommunication.In October 2007, a similar incident occurred that involved a Funkstown School for Early Childhood Education kindergartner - where all five students involved in Thursday's busing problems are enrolled.

In 2007, the kindergartner boarded the wrong school bus and was dropped off about two miles from home. He was found in a parking lot along Sharpsburg Pike, The Herald-Mail reported.

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Wrong stop

Jamie Feigley, of Hagerstown, is the mother of one of the children, 4-year-old Hunter Shipp, who was dropped at the wrong bus stop Thursday. It was Hunter's first day of prekindergarten at Funkstown.

Feigley said her son, her niece, Kaelynn Thomas, 4, and nephew, Sethan Thomas, 5, all were dropped off on at the corner of North Locust and John streets - one block from their actual bus stop.

Barbara Scotto, supervisor of transportation, said the children's parents submitted a form to change their afternoon bus stop from the one they were mistakenly dropped off at. That form, she said, was turned in Tuesday during a back-to-school event.

Scotto said the forms were being processed, and that the children's families were not informed that the change had been approved.

"The driver followed the information that was most current," said schools spokesman Richard Wright.

About 3:15 p.m. Thursday, Feigley said, she was on her way to pick up the children from what she believed to be their new bus stop, at the corner of North Mulberry and John streets in downtown Hagerstown, when she saw them running down John Street. She said they were running to a daycare provider on that street.

"They were running ... their faces were blood red," she said. "Thank God they knew (where their daycare was). They had been at that same daycare. They knew the way."

They all ride the same school bus - No. 350. The children will go to the daycare provider after school, but on Thursday Feigley took the day off of work to meet them at the bus stop.

Wrong bus

Scotto said that two kindergartners at Funkstown boarded the wrong bus Thursday after receiving a tag with the wrong bus number.

"They should have been assigned to another bus," she said. "There was some confusion in the issuing of that tag that mistakenly placed them on bus No. 343."

Scotto said the bus driver discovered the children were on the wrong bus, and called school officials. The children's parents were called, and the children were taken home.

They never left the school bus.

"I think the important thing to note here is that all five children are safe and with their families," Wright said.

Feigley said that young children, like her son, are not supposed to be dropped off at their bus stop without an adult there.

Scotto said that on Thursday an adult was at the stop waiting for another student. However, bus drivers are expected to make sure that there is an adult waiting for every child who exits the bus.

Feigley also is concerned that the children were dropped off near The Wells House Inc. - a halfway house for people recently released from jail.

"It was a pretty bad day for the first day of school," she said. "We didn't even get a chance to ask our kids how their first day was because of all of this commotion."

Drivers

Scotto would not say whether the two drivers involved in Thursday's incidents would be driving Washington County Public Schools buses today, citing personnel matters.

Both drivers are school system employees, not contractors.

"In any situation like this when there is an investigation pending we can opt to place the employees on administrative leave," Scotto said. "We haven't communicated with personnel about that action at this point."

The Washington County Board of Education recently approved a new school bus transportation policy that officials said would make students safer. That policy restricts students to one morning and one afternoon bus stop. Those stops can be different.

Scotto said the new policy did not play a role in Thursday's problems.


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