HOUSTON – One southwest Houston woman had a nerve-wracking experience when her 3rd-grade daughter never made it home, at least not to her bus stop.
The woman waited hours only to find that her daughter wasn't coming. She said it took hours to get the information she needed.
It is, perhaps, something no parent ever wants to realize.
"My daughter didn't show up off the school bus," said Amanda Michaels who had moved with her two young girls from Pennsylvania to Houston in June.
Her 8-year-old daughter, Rachel, is a newcomer to Benavidez Elementary School.
"This will be her third week," Michaels said.
However, Monday at 3:30 p.m., the time Rachel usually gets picked up, Rachel never made it to the bus stop and Michaels waited.
"I was fine for the first hour. Figured they got stuck in traffic," Michaels said.
Michaels called the school and said she was told that her daughter had already gone on a bus and would be there shortly.
"We were looking at the different buses that were showing up, and she wasn't on any of them," Michaels said. "The security guard [at the stop location] was even on the phone with transportation, and they couldn't find the route number. They couldn't find my daughter. That's why I said nobody knew where she was. They were telling me that they didn't have any record of the bus going from Benavidez to [the stop], like, 'But she's been doing it all week. You can't tell me that it doesn't."
For about an hour, Michaels said her non-stop calls to the school went unanswered.
"It kept ringing and ringing and ringing and said it wasn't available," Michaels said. "Then the panic set in. In two hours, she couldn't have been anywhere. My daughter's gone."
Finally, around 5:30 p.m., someone at the school picked up, Michaels said. They told her that her daughter had been dropped off at the school by the bus driver who was helping to pick up the extra kids after another driver called in sick half and hour before the shift, Michaels said. Michaels was told that this was standard protocol.
"The driver called off and because it's an open route, any of the other bus drivers could pick her up, after their routes are done," Michaels said.
Michaels said the driver didn't know where Rachel was supposed to get dropped off. Rachel didn't know either, so the driver brought her back to the school. The school apologized about the situation, Michaels said. However, Michaels said that it is problematic to depend on children to know where they need to go.
"Why was that put on an 8-year-old?" Michaels asked. "It should be on the adults in school."
Michaels said the school told her they knew where Rachel was the whole time. Now this mother says there should have been better communication. KPRC has reached out to HISD who released this statement:
"HISD understands the concern expressed by the parent of the child who was safely delivered back to her home campus yesterday. In line with district protocol, bus drivers are trained to transport students back to their home campus and leave them in the care of a school administrator if they are unable to drop the student off at their designated bus stop. Upon returning to campus, the school is instructed to contact the students’ parents to notify them that their child was not dropped off and must be picked up at their home school. The child was safe and supervised at all times. We work diligently to ensure the well-being of every child entrusted to our care."