WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- For one Forsyth County family, the first day of school started early, but not on time; and the end to their day came much later than expected.
“We went out to meet the bus and we waited and waited,” said Andrew Houston, father of two Smith Farm Elementary School students. “The bus was supposed to arrive around 7:30.”
Houston waited with his two sons -- Gabriel, 7, and Michael, 5 -- until about 8 in the morning; watching other school buses drive by them in the process.
“Our youngest, our 5-year-old, he was tearing up. He was that upset because he was so excited to ride a school bus for the first time,” Houston said.
Houston then decided to walk the boys to school and when he arrived, he found out what had happened.
“I spoke with the principal and the assistant principal and they told me that the bus driver decided not to show up for work today,” Houston said.
Of the 245 bus drivers employed by the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools system, administrators said, this driver was the only one who did not show up. They say, by the time they realized the driver was a no-show it was too late to cover the route.
“The principal should have -- knowing that the bus driver was not at work today -- should have been notifying the parents well beforehand that this was going to happen,” Houston said.
The principal, according to Houston, then promised that the boys would be returned safely by a school bus at the end of the school day. However, the end of classes was not the end of the ordeal.
Houston said he was told the boys would arrive home sometime around 2:30 in the afternoon. However, by 3:00, they had still not been dropped off.
After a search which lasted over a half hour, the boys were located on a bus which was not their own.
School officials say the boys had gotten on their morning bus, instead of the afternoon one.
As of 5 o’clock Monday evening, Houston said that his children still had not arrived home.
“It is unnerving for me to know that I’m going to be traveling for my job, and worrying about whether or not my kids are going to have the proper transportation to school,” Houston said.
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Chief of Staff Theo Helm apologized for the incident, saying; “We are sorry for the gentleman’s trouble, it’s certainly not our goal to do that, and [we] hope that it doesn’t happen again.”
Helm said that buses often run late on the first day of school, especially in elementary schools, as drivers and administrators work to deal with kids riding buses for the first time and make sure all the children are on the buses.