Anxious parents turned up at Gaffney School in New Britain Monday when their children failed to make it to their bus stops after their first day of summer enrichment programming through the Consolidated School District of New Britain, and one mother said she wants answers about how it happened.
The New Britain Schools superintendent called the drop-off issues “difficulties.” But a parent that spoke with NBC Connecticut said what happened was a lot worse than that, and it’s making her question how well the school district is handling the transportation of its children.
“I was very scared. I was like my daughter is probably on the bus like where’s mommy?” Loretta Robinson told NBC Connecticut.
Robinson said she spent more than an hour unable to locate her 8-year-old daughter.
“I’m like where’s my kid? Where is she at? And what’s going on?” Robinson said.
Robinson’s child, who has special needs, was one of several New Britain children who began the first day of the school district's summer enrichment program Monday, but at the end of the day didn’t get dropped off at their designated neighborhood bus stop because, according to the district, the bus drivers got lost taking kids home.
“No phone calls. No nothing saying hey we got your child, we’re running late, this is what happened. Nothing,” Robinson said.
A spokesperson for the school district said several drivers at the district’s new transportation company “First Student” were unfamiliar with their routes, and didn’t drop their kids at the proper stops. The district said when they became aware of the issues, they ordered every bus carrying children back to the schools where they picked them up. Three buses carrying approximately two dozen students had to return.
But Robinson said nobody gave that information to her or the other parents at Gaffney Elementary School, where they were anxiously searching for their kids. So she started making calls on her own.
“They were coordinating...was the words that they used...coordinating the children back to the school,” she said.
Superintendent Nancy Sarra released the following statement:
"Today was the first day of our summer enrichment programs throughout the school district. We had over 800 students in attendance from across the city.
While we experienced some difficulties with drop-offs at particular locations throughout the city, all students are safe at home.
Our transportation manager is working closely with First Student to ensure that our students are brought home in a timely manner as we continue our summer programming."
Robinson said she’s not sure it’s enough. She’s rethinking whether she’ll trust to put her daughter on those buses again this summer.
“I am going to make some phone calls in the morning…some serious phone calls and we’re really going to have a conversation and see what goes from there,” Robinson said.
A spokesperson for the school district said that Tuesday the same drivers that got lost will be out on the roads, but in between their morning pickups and afternoon drop-offs they’ll be doing test runs of the routes.
NBC Connecticut reached out to First Student for comment, but has yet to hear back.