Yesterday was the first day of school here in Eugene, Oregon, and it was also my 5-year-old's first trip on a school bus. We have a ridiculously complicated bus schedule this year complete with varying pickup and dropoff times and locations (one kid in half-day kindergarten and one in second grade, early release Wednesdays, one bus route that won't come through our block and one that will), and both my son and I were more than a little nervous as we waited for the bus to arrive.
It finally did, 10 minutes behind schedule, and he bravely climbed on board as I waved and took photos and tried to squash a rising sensation of panic as the bus drove out of sight. He's fine, I told myself. He's going to have the best day.
Forty-five minutes later, I got a call from the school. My son had been taken back to school, they said, because no parent was available to meet him at his dropoff. Could I come pick him up?
If you're having a hard time making sense of that, trust me, I did too. "Wait," I said. "My son's in afternoon kindergarten. He just got picked up by the bus, not dropped off. He should be in CLASS right now."
"Ohhhhhhhhhh," said the voice on the other line. "Oh, sorry."
As for how it was that my 5-year-old arrived at school without a teacher helping him figure out where he needed to go, I do not know. I called back, eventually drove to the school to talk to the principal about what happened, and even called the transportation department, but all I got were apologies, without a single explanation. No one seemed to have any idea what exactly had gone wrong, other than it was the first day of school and there was "lots of confusion."
I understand how hectic the first days must be for educators and staff, but I truly can't figure how a kindergartener -- riding a kindergarten-only afternoon bus, so it's not like there were a ton of other grades to contend with -- gets lost in the system to the point where the people in charge of making sure he's safe have no idea where he's been or where he's supposed to be.
The worst part about this entire scenario is that it's EXACTLY why I was anxious about putting him on the bus in the first place. There's something inherently terrifying about watching your child riding away on a school bus for the first time, and the only thing that makes it bearable is the belief that everything's going to be okay.
Ultimately, of course, he was okay. I mean, just to put things in perspective so I don't sound TOO dramatic, it's not like the bus drove off a giant cliff and burst into flames on impact. He was never left alone without supervision, and he eventually made it to his class safe and sound.
But jesus, I can't believe that's what happened on his first day. My poor shy boy, being inexpertly shuttled around and brought to class late. He's been so excited for this rite of passage, but it's going to be a while before I watch that yellow bus pull away from the curb with any sense of confidence.
Have you experienced a school bus mistake like this? Did it make you nervous about letting your child ride the bus?
Image via Linda Sharps