D19 reviewing bus procedures after 5-year-old child left alone

Barnwell District 19 is reviewing school bus transportation procedures after a child was dropped off at the wrong location and left unattended.
Natoya Hallingquest of Blackville said her five-year-old son Dennis Johnson is supposed to be dropped off by the bus after school at his grandmother's house; however, that was not the case Oct. 20. Instead, Hallingquest said her son was dropped off at her house where no adults were present.
While Hallingquest gave Macedonia Elementary School officials a note for her son to change bus routes on Friday, Oct. 17 so he could be dropped off at her house, things were supposed to revert back to normal on Monday. However, her son was dropped off at her house on Monday instead of his grandmother's.
"There was a mix-up," said District 19 Superintendent Dr. Teresa Pope. "The change was only for Friday, not Monday."
Hallingquest, who expressed her frustration to the school board Oct. 28, is not only upset that her son was dropped off at the wrong house, but also that the bus driver dropped him off without an adult being there. She said her son sat on the back porch for 30 minutes and then wandered around, including in the road with a truck coming toward him. That's when she said a man got him out the road and Hallingquest's uncle was notified to pick Johnson up.
While the district does not have a written policy about leaving a child unattended, Pope said they have procedures bus drivers follow. It's unclear where the breakdown in communication came from in this case, but Pope said they're forming a committee to write procedures for when a temporary change is made to where a child should be dropped off so everyone is aware of the change.
"We definitely don't want anything to happen to any of our children," Pope said.
Even if there wasn't a written policy, Hallingquest said she doesn't understand how a bus driver could leave a five-year-old by himself.
The new procedures seek to correct that by requiring an adult to be present for the child to be dropped off, a procedure other area districts practice.
Barnwell District 45 Transportation Supervisor Michael Jenkins said they train bus drivers to make sure an adult is home, especially for primary age children. "We do wait until the child is inside," he said, before the bus driver leaves.
If an adult is not home, Jenkins said the child is taken back to the office so school officials can make contact with the parents or guardians.
Also at their Oct. 28 meeting, the board approved two new hires, including adding back the maintenance supervisor's position. The position has been vacant due to financial reasons for more than a year since the previous supervisor retired.
Marvin Allen, a part-time bus employee, was hired as the maintenance supervisor. He will maintain bus duties but will now also oversee maintenance operations, said Pope.
Board members Inell Waring, Jameka Hagood and Steve McCormack voted in favor of Allen's hiring while Carroll Priester opposed and Ethel Faust abstained due to "financial conditions."
The issue was previously voted on at the board's Oct. 13 meeting; however, the motion to hire Allen did not gain enough votes. Waring was not present at that meeting, which is why it was brought up at the Oct. 28 meeting.
The board also hired "Employee B" as a bus driver. Priester also opposed this motion while Faust abstained due to information she received in closed session.