Thursday was supposed to be the highlight of the year for more than 100 kindergarteners from Stafford County, Va. They got up early and took a chartered bus to the White House for a school field trip. But when they arrived, all the 5-year-olds got was a lesson in disappointment.
The buses from Conway Elementary arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue a little later than planned, and they were locked out.
"We were going to the White House, but we couldn’t get in so I felt sad," 5-year-old Cameron Stine said.
Parents say they were just 10 minutes late for their scheduled tour. School officials say White House staff said they needed to get ready for the president's event with the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, so they couldn't come in.
"I was angry cause they were disappointed," parent and chaperone Paty Stine said.
The Steelers and the Obama administration used their time together to create 3,000 care packages for U.S. troops as part of a Wounded Warriors initiative.
A lot of preparing had gone into the trip. Conway Elementary teachers had been planning the trip for months, each child paid $20 for a seat on the chartered bus, and names were submitted to the White House for clearance.
Parents say they tried to make it on time, but their chartered buses hit heavy traffic that slowed them down substantially. They thought they were supposed to show up by 10:15, but they say they arrived at 10:25 instead, and couldn’t get in.
"The person who headed this White House trip up came out and said, 'I’m sorry, the White House tour's off.' There were a lot of crying kids," parent Barbara Stine said.
The White House tells a slightly different story. A spokesperson said the group was actually supposed to be there at 9:30, but they held the gates for the group until 10:30, 15 minutes longer than they told the group, but when they still hadn't arrived, they had to draw the line.
Paty Stine said the White House staff should have made an exception. She feels the kindergarteners were snubbed for the Steelers.
"Here we have President Obama and his administration saying, 'Here we are for the common, middle class people,' and here he is not letting 150 5- and 6-year-olds into the White House because he’s throwing a lunch for a bunch of grown millionaires," Stine said.
Thursday night the White House released this statement: "The President and First Lady are dedicated to opening the doors of the White House to the public, and it is unfortunate to see young people miss a tour. The visitor’s office is already working to reschedule the group."
Parents say it's probably too late. The school year ends in a few weeks and they doubt the tour can be made up in that time.