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Two Collegium Charter School kindergarteners were left alone at a bus stop for roughly 20 minutes without another student or adult around about a third of a mile from their homes on Sept. 8.
The Krapf’s Bus Company driver — under contract with the West Chester Area School District — was running early on his route that day, did not contact dispatch of his early drop-off, which left the two 5-year-old children briefly unattended.
“We tell parents to be there 10 minutes before and 10 minutes after, especially the first couple of weeks because we’re still juggling some schedules,” said West Chester Superintendent Jim Scanlon. “The procedure for our drivers is if they run more than 10 minutes early or late, they’re supposed to call back to the dispatcher and we notify parents and let them know. This driver did not do that.”
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Collegium Charter School buses should not leave the campus until roughly 4:25.
Because the buses have a GPS in them, Scanlon and Krapf’s knows the bus left earlier than it was supposed to.
“The bus clearly left early,” Scanlon said. “We know the bus left approximately 20 minutes early that day and arrived at the stop approximately 20 minutes early.”
Nothing happened to the young students. In fact, they sat down at the stop and ate snacks while they waited for their parents to arrive, Scanlon said.
Sept. 8 was the first day all bus routes were running with the charter, public and parochial schools back in session.
It was also the first time that driver ran that particular route.
“This was the week we had all of our bus drivers going at one time for the first time on Sept. 8, which is 146 different schools that we bus to,” Scanlon said. “There are a whole lot of pieces to this. It was a mistake by the driver and we addressed that.”
The West Chester Area School District’s Student Transportation Policy states that morning kindergarten students will only be dropped off if there is an adult present at the bus stop, otherwise the students will be returned to the school.
For afternoon kindergarteners, there typically are other elementary grade levels on the bus with them and at stops, so there are no restrictions on those drop-offs.
“The policy doesn’t say we’re just going to go drop them off,” Scanlon said. “We try to notify parents if we’re running late or early. We do have some checks and balances in there that wasn’t followed.
“We will take kids back to a school if the school requests that such a practice needs to be in place. With private, parochial and charter bus runs, we rarely get that request because there is nobody at the school at the end of the day to supervise the children.”
Scanlon has been in contact with both the parents of the two kindergarteners and Krapf’s.
“I told the parents I’ll go back and revise the guidelines to make sure drivers kindergarten kids in afternoon runs double check, particularly if they’re early, to notify the dispatch so we can call the parents,” he said. “I assured the parents they wouldn’t ever see that happen again and we have followed up with Krapf’s and they have been very responsive to that to remind drivers of the safety protocol to follow.”
The route now has a new driver.
“We’re on the same page as the district and we took the necessary actions to discipline the driver,” said Shawn McGlinchey, vice president of Risk Management & Safety at Krapf’s. “We take the transportation of children very serious.”
The incident comes during the first month of schools starting for the 2015-16 year when things can still be a little hectic.
“This is the time of the year where we’re still sorting through transportation,” Scanlon said. “Kids are still registering and have some special needs kids going to different schools and we provide transportation for them. We try to let it all shake out…We are reviewing our guidelines to be sure drivers are not placing students in possible dangerous situations by dropping them off early at bus stops.”