Chayce and Madison Stowe say they are not done with action against Longview ISD after they went several terrifying hours Thursday not being able to locate their 4-year-old son and a neighbor’s 5-year-old son on a bus.
The parents are set to meet with members of the school board Monday, Madison said.
On Thursday, Madison called the News-Journal about 4 p.m. and said the boys were missing. She watches the neighbor’s son after school.
District spokeswoman Elizabeth Ross on Thursday said she spoke to the district’s transportation director, Dale Bohannon, and was told it was possible the children’s bus tags had come off their backpacks and the driver did not know where to take them.
Madison said Friday that did not happen and provided video of her son getting off the bus with his bus tag on his backpack. The bus was No. 55.
Ross also said Thursday that the bus finished its route and returned the children to the bus barn at 5:15 p.m. Madison said she picked up the children about 4:45 p.m. at Bar-K Ranch Store on U.S. 259.
The News-Journal could not reach Bohannon for comment Friday through the district’s communication office, by calling Bohannon’s office or after visiting the district’s bus barn.
Thursday was not the first day the family had issues with transportation at Longview ISD this school year, which began Monday.
Chayce said that on Monday he scheduled his 4-year-old son, Carter, a prekindergartner at East Texas Montessori Prep Academy, to be picked up by car when classes dismissed at 2:15 p.m.
“The teacher was not notified Carter was supposed to be changed from bus to car pickup,” he said. “I was given a car tag and spoke with the front office and spoke with pickup personnel.”
Chayce said after his wife waited in the car pickup line, she got to the front of the line and was told the child was put on a bus.
“Madison got home within seconds of the bus arriving,” Chayce said. “The bus arrived at 3 p.m. that day.”
Chayce said Carter got home from riding the bus at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Carter and his neighbor, Ryker Reed, who is 5 and in kindergarten at the prep academy, arrived at the Stowes’ home at 2:07 p.m., Chayce said.
“Ryker and Carter were let off the bus down the road without a parent or guardian outside to let the bus driver know the children were safe,” Chayce said. “School doesn’t let out until 2:15 p.m., so why wasn’t any parent informed about a change?”
Madison said the bus was gone by the time the boys got to the door.
“They didn’t even wait to know they made it in safely,” she said. “They let a 4-year-old and 5-year-old off the bus and did not make sure they made it in.”
On Thursday, Chayce said he and his wife and neighbors — Ryker’s parents, Lauren and Chandler Reed — became worried after the children were not let off the bus by 2:30 p.m., and they called police at 3:50 p.m. after already having called the school and the district’s bus barn.
“No one had an answer to where they were. The children are supposed to go from Montessori to the house. The bus went from Montessori to Johnston(-McQueen Elementary School), and we were told they were there,” Chayce said. “Chandler then left and went to Johnston-McQueen. The kids were not there.”
An audio recording of the phone call Thursday to the bus barn provided by the Stowes said the district hired a new driver to “do nothing but y’all’s children and transfer to Johnston-McQueen. She absolutely, positively forgot to drop those children off.”
“I then went to the bus barn,” Chayce said. “On my way there, I called the police at 3:50 p.m. Police called me back at 4:01 p.m. I told them I was heading to the bus barn. (The police officer) told me not to go up there and tried to give me information I already knew, and they were telling me the same thing (as the bus barn).”
Chayce said that at 4:12 p.m., he arrived at the bus barn, which closes at 4:30 p.m., and no one answered the door. After an officer arrived at 4:20 p.m., transportation department workers let them into the bus barn.
“No one would let me in or communicated with me until police arrived. No one had any idea where our children were. I spoke with dispatch to contact the driver; the driver couldn’t answer,” Chayce said. “Finally the driver responded letting me know and the officer know the boys were on the bus... . I told her to stop that bus, so I could come get my children. Now, Ryker’s not my child, but the parents of that child were looking for him, as well.”
Minutes later, the driver — who is assisted by a bus monitor — responded they would pull over at Bar-K Ranch Store, and dispatch told the driver the father was coming to pick up the children, Chayce said.
Madison met the bus at the store, where she said she was not asked for identification before taking the children off the bus about 4:45 p.m.
“I was told by the police officer that they brought the kids to the bus barn, then to Johnston-McQueen, then they were supposed to be bringing them home, so we aren’t sure. No one’s giving us a solid answer of where our kids were for those hours,” Madison said. “There is a monitor on the bus, so the bus driver might be new, but there is a woman who has worked for LISD for quite a bit that knows what she’s supposed to do.”
Madison said when she called the school Thursday, she was told other parents had called about the same bus.
“This morning I went up there and had the (bus) tags cut off, because they were not losing my child again,” Madison said Friday.