WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — Yenicer Cifuentes is looking for a new school for her 7-year-old son who is autistic and nonverbal after he managed to wander away from his elementary school playground Tuesday afternoon.
The family was reunited at Hall-Woodward Elementary in Winston-Salem after a couple of hours of searching for Kelvin Sauvenell.
His mother told FOX8 that she believes Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools failed her and her son.
She still wants answers as to how Kelvin got away without anybody noticing, why school staff took so long to contact her and what changes will be made to stop this from happening to another family.
She says the campus is too open, making it easy for students to wander off and other people to find a way in.
“Yesterday, it was Kelvin…tomorrow, we will see. Maybe it’ll be another child,” Cifuentes said.
Fear, panic and anger are just a few words describing how Cifuentes felt Tuesday afternoon when she got the call her little boy was missing.
“They said ‘hey, you have to come into school.’ I said ‘what happened?’ They say ‘it’s urgent…you have to come in…Kelvin’s lost,'” Cifuentes said.
Winston-Salem police searched for Kelvin for nearly three hours on the Hall-Woodward Elementary School grounds and in the surrounding neighborhood.
Officers say he wandered into the woods behind the school while playing with classmates on the playground.
“I just realized when they gave me Kelvin where he was all the time,” Cifuentes said. “He goes to that playground every single day. So he was in danger every single day.”
Officers eventually found him near a creek. His mother was just counting the seconds until his safe return.
“I don’t know what he was thinking at the time. You know he can’t yell ‘hey, I need help. Hey, I’m here.’ He was hungry. He was thirsty. He was unsafe,” she said.
She doesn’t feel like the school is safe, and she says she knows now it’s not the right place for her son.
“It was a failed system,” Cifuentes said. “I think if that place was the correct place that wouldn’t happen. That never happens. Where was the person who was supposed to be in charge of him? They don’t have fences to contain the children if they run out.”
On Wednesday morning, she spent some quality time with Kelvin who she’d feared she wouldn’t see again after Tuesday evening’s scare.
“I hope this is an example for them. I hope they learn about it,” Cifuentes said. “I am never going to forget that. That event is always going to be in my mind,”
FOX8 reached out to WS/FCS to see if there are any plans to take immediate action after what happened.
A spokesperson said a formal investigation was launched Wednesday, and school leaders are looking at all aspects from staff to facilities.