SCHENECTADY, N.Y. – Schenectady City School District officials have released a statement and their own account of the events that led to a kindergartener spending the day at the wrong school.
The district says they received a phone call from the parent of a Howe kindergarten student who was concerned because her child did not come home on the school bus. They advised the mother to call the police, who began to investigate at once. A short time later, after the school day ended, district administration learned that the student was at Yates school, the wrong school. Officials say she arrived in the morning and spent the entire school day there.
According to officials, it was a “series of events led to the student arriving and spending the day at the wrong school including the fact that the student misled school administrators and teachers by assuming the identity of a new student, one whom the school was expecting.”
“We are very happy that the student was located and is fine. That is most important,” said Superintendent Larry Spring. “While the student did impersonate another student, which didn't raise any red flags, the situation has brought to light some other serious issues that need to be addressed on our end.”
He says the changes include making it very clear to parents what bus their children should board each day, improving the communication between substitute bus drivers and the school, an identification process for new students at school as well as communication with parents when students don't show up to school.
Spring said some of the confusion could have been avoided at the start of the day when the student boarded the wrong bus which was driven by a substitute driver.
“It can be confusing for both the bus driver and the parents when different buses with different destinations pick up kids at the same stop,” said Spring. “We are exploring ways to help make it clear to parents which bus their child should be riding each day, regardless of who is driving.”
He said it is also important for bus drivers to know who rides their bus each day and how they will communicate with the school if they learn that a child, who should not be on the bus, is aboard.
“It's about putting a more effective communication system into place,” said Spring. “We have to know where the kids are.”
Officials say that when the kindergartener arrived at Yates, she was asked by name if she was the new student who had not yet been to the school. They say she confirmed that she was. Yates school began the intake process at which time the student continued to assume the identity of a student who had not arrived yet. She responded by name and by writing that student's name on papers throughout the day, according to officials.
“Yes, she misled staff in the school,” said Spring. “While that was wrong, we have to remember that she is a kindergartener who was alone.”
While the district has not had issues like this in the past, in light of this incident, Spring said changes will be made when a new student arrives for the first time.
“We will be taking a close look at our school intake process and develop a system to ensure the identification of any new students as they enter the schools,” said Spring. “There was a series of events, that while unusual, we should have discovered where this child was.”
School and district administration have both been in contact with the child's mother to discuss the issues and talk about her concerns.
“We regret that Ms. Rodriguez spent yesterday afternoon worrying about her child,” said Spring. “I understand her concerns. Right now, we are taking a look at every angle, from the school bus stop in the morning , ensuring a student is who they say they are when they walk through the door for the first time and the ride home.”