Greater Albany Public Schools has publicly apologized to a parent after her son, who has autism, was left on a bus Tuesday instead of being taken to school.
District officials said the driver, who has been with Albany since August 2008, has been put on paid administrative leave pending an investigation.
“Drivers are required, at the end of their route, to walk to the back of the bus and look for students still on the bus or anything else amiss,” said Jim Haggart, administrative assistant to the superintendent. “This driver did not follow that requirement that day.”
Ashlee Ellefson of Albany posted her story on Facebook and confirmed the Tuesday morning situation via email with the Democrat-Herald.
Ellefson said her son, Lyfe Ellefson-Hamar, 9, gets on the bus at 8:27 a.m. to ride to Timber Ridge School. She said she buckled Lyfe into his seat, the second from the front, on the special-needs bus that morning.
At 9:58, she said, she received a call from Timber Ridge, which she couldn’t immediately pick up. She received a second call at 10:05 and called back immediately, only to learn Lyfe was not at school.
“I say, what do you mean, I put him on the bus at 8:27 this morning, what do you mean, do you not have him?” Ellefson recalled in her post.
School officials said they were checking with the transportation department, and Ellefson asked Lyfe’s father, Jeff Hamar, to call the bus garage himself. Fifteen minutes later, Ellefson said, transportation officials said Lyfe had been found, still buckled in his seat in the bus, which was parked in the district's bus garage.
Ellefson said she called police on the way to pick Lyfe up.
“It’s terrible because we trust these people with our children and they act like it is cargo,” she said. “It’s outraging that this goes on.”
Haggart said Lyfe has been a Timber Ridge student since Dec. 3 and has been a passenger on the same bus, with the same driver, during that time.
He and Superintendent Maria Delapoer apologized on behalf of the district.
“It is the school district’s responsibility to get it right every day for every student, and we did not properly care for this student that day. I am sorry this happened,” Haggart said.
Said Delapoer: “We will do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again so that our students are safe and supervised while in our care.”
Jennifer Moody is the education reporter for the Democrat-Herald. She can be reached at 541-812-6113 or email@example.com.