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Parent says child missing from school bus, district responds

By Jennifer Hoff, jhoff@wisctv.com
Published On: Sep 26 2013 09:54:43 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 27 2013 02:50:03 PM CDT

Jennifer Hoff

Reedsburg bus transfer location

Reedsburg, Wis. -

"It's kind of terrifying, you know, you don't know where he's at, they're just tiny, they're just so little," said an emotional Jennifer Nelson. The Sauk County mother discovered her 4-year-old son missing from his school bus Sept. 5.

Nelson said her nightmare started with the Reedsburg's problematic school transportation policy.

"I called the bus station and said, 'why is this happening,'" said Nelson. "I need a valid and legitimate reason why you've lost my child, and (they) said they didn't lose him, he's just been 'misplaced.'"

District Administrator Tom Benson said, while he understands a new school year can be difficult, especially for the district's youngest students, the policy to put kids on the appropriate bus is successful.

In Nelson's case, the mix-up started at the city's middle school, a transfer station for 1,500 students, some like her son Tristen. He's responsible for getting off one bus and onto another. Except on his first day of 4K, he never got off and endured two extra hours on a different route.

"He was hot, sweaty and really trying hard not to cry," said Nelson. "He was so brave."

Nelson said the yellow wristbands transfer students wear detailing their bus information failed her son, and suggested bus drivers take roll call or the district hire aides.

"An additional adult on 20-something buses is going to have additional costs and that means money has to come from another program," said Benson. "The roll call system would only work so well because on any given day a child might not be on the bus because of an after-school activity or mom picked them up early for a dentist appointment or whatever it might be."

Benson said there are some 20 bus drivers, retired adults, high school students and other volunteers at the transfer station helping students, who range from 4K to 12th grade.

Nelson said a lack of supervision is a problem at the transfer station, and claims three other 4K students were left on a bus when her son was.

"It can be a concerning time," said Benson. "But I'm confident we've got the resources in place to support that."

Nelson left a message for the transportation director the day Tristen was unaccounted for, but she didn't hear back. While Benson asks parents to call him directly if they're still concerned about the transportation policy, he said at this point they don't plan to change.

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