The first day of school in Prince George’s County, parents reported numerous problems with late school buses that at times didn’t pick up or drop students off at all. But one family’s ordeal on Wednesday went beyond an inconvenience.
After a 5-year-old girl never arrived on the bus to her after school care center, her frantic parents feared the worst.
Several Prince George’s County Police officers responded to Cora L. Rice Elementary in Landover, Maryland, looking for the kindergartner.
“When they told me that at work I wanted to die,” her mother said.
Fortunately, the 5-year-old girl was found safe, but she had gotten on a bus and gone to the wrong aftercare center.
Family members said the center eventually called them because she hadn’t been picked up, never noticing the little girl wasn’t supposed to be there.
“So that was after three hours, four hours of calling and looking and calling her name. Calling and looking throughout the school, in the bushes, we didn’t know who took our child,” she said.
School officials warned in the days leading up to the first day of school that there would be problems because of a bus driver shortage.
“Each day will get better. Will it be perfect? It won’t be better until we can fill every route,” Dr. Monica Goldson, CEO of PGCPS, said.
But the issue at the elementary school did not involve a county school bus. The girl’s family said the school and day care centers failed her.
They advise other parents to “make sure you tell your child who’s supposed to pick you up, where you’re supposed to go, who you’re supposed to meet. If you don’t know that person, don’t go.”
The little girl’s parents are just happy she’s safe, sharing their story to make sure it doesn’t happen to any other family.
“We definitely want the parents to be really careful about that. That was serious,” her father said.
The family also says when they reviewed camera footage at the school, they found that some of the cameras weren’t working and that they didn’t show children getting on buses. The little girl will no longer be attending Cora Rice and the child care center, the family said.
"We apologize for this family’s experience on the first day," the school system said in a statement. "We are working through these issues in the first few days of a new school year and the school administration is working directly with the family to address their concerns."