Six-year-old Channing Gillus’ daily trip from her Shepherd Park home to summer learning at Janney Elementary School in Tenleytown shouldn’t take long. But two weeks ago, it turned into an odyssey that has left her mother asking for answers.
It started with the bus arriving 15 minutes late.
“[Extended school year learning] starts at 9 a.m. At 10 a.m., I text Channing’s teacher just to say, ‘Hey, what time did Channing get to school?’ And her response was, ‘Channing’s not here,’” Asha Gillus, the little girl’s mother, said.
Nobody knew where Channing was.
“I start calling people, texting people, emailing the director of transportation of [the Office of the State Superintendent of Education] in all caps ‘WHERE IS CHANNING?’ calling the school,” Gillus said.
Caught in a parent’s nightmare, Gillus didn’t want to leave the house in case the bus brought her daughter back home.
“It was a fear, something I still deal with every day because I still have no answers,” she said.
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Two-and-a-half hours after she set out, Channing finally got dropped off at school. She missed breakfast and three important sessions, “which are critical for her development because she has Down syndrome and she is in a special education program,” her mother said.
Despite an onboard GPS system, the driver and attendant, who were new to the route, had gotten lost.
As Gillus sought her own answers about what happened, she found more troubling information.
“I asked for the camera footage. Apparently there are cameras on the buses that are not operational,” she said.
The following day, a private transportation contractor, a driver and attendant were sent to take Channing to school.
“I get a call from Channing's former day care center, that is down the street from her school, saying something happened,” Gillus said.
The contractor had taken her to that former day care provider.
“So they took Channing to the wrong building,” her mother said.
The Office of the State Superintendent of Education pledged to work with the Gillus family to resolve the problem and see that it doesn’t happen again.
Gillus is not comforted. She still wants answers about where Channing was during those two-and-a-half hours and how big of a problem the error might be.
“I found this out by happenstance. I cannot imagine the things that we do not know,” Gillus said.