BARRINGTON, R.I. (WPRI) — An elementary school bus driver got lost while bringing students home Monday, according to Barrington Superintendent Mike Messore.
In a letter to families, Messore explained that the new bus driver took a wrong turn and crossed into the town of Warren, which significantly delayed students’ after-school arrival times.
Messore said the error prompted Ocean State Transit, which is the company responsible for transporting Barrington students to and from school, to direct the lost driver to meet up with another bus.
Without notifying Barrington Public Schools, Messore said Ocean State Transit transferred the Hampden Meadows and Nayatt School students from one bus to the other and then released a number of them at incorrect stops.
“Ocean State Transit did not provide adequate or real-time updates to our building or district administrators regarding the depth of this incident as it unfolded,” Messore wrote. “We regret that this prevented us from taking swift action to resolve the situation and return our students to the family members waiting at their bus stop in a timely manner.”
12 News spoke with the parents of a 6-year-old girl who was on the bus. Both described the situation as their worst nightmare.
“We didn’t know if there was a rogue bus driver or if our children were kidnapped,” one parent told 12 News.
The parents called Barrington police after not hearing back from the school district, and said the police officers were even shocked to learn that a bus full of children was missing.
The family eventually got in touch with someone from Barrington Public Schools, who told them they “were unsure where the bus was.”
When their daughter finally returned home a couple of hours later, dropped off by a different bus driver, her parents said she was shaking.
“She was so scared,” one of her parents said. “It was her first bus ride and my heart breaks because I don’t know how to get her back on the bus.”
Messore said the district has met with the Barrington Police Department and expressed their concerns to Ocean State Transit regarding the handling of students’ safety.
“We will be meeting with the transportation company to ensure that an incident like this does not occur again in our district,” Messore added.
Messore assured that the bus will have a new driver and monitor starting Tuesday. The bus driver who got lost will be reassigned, according to Ocean State Transit.
“While delays during the first few days of school are not unusual as routes are adjusted for new students and drivers become familiar with new routes, we understand the inconvenience a longer bus ride can be for students and parents,” Ocean State Transit said in a statement. “We are working closely with the district to review this incident further and will make any necessary adjustments to optimize services.”
Messore described the school bus blunder as “unacceptable.”
“It does not reflect the quality of bus transportation our students and families deserve, nor does it meet the level of safety, security or trust that our district expects,” he wrote. “We are very sorry for the great stress that this experience caused you and your children on their first day of school.”
Messore encouraged parents to notify the district if their child has expressed concerns regarding their transportation to and from school.
“Our school social workers and support staff are available to discuss this with them,” he explained.
Messore said the school will also be meeting directly with the students who were on the lost bus.