by Lisa Tome
A five-year-old kindergarten student was home safe with his family Thursday evening, August 27, after an experience he and his loved ones won't soon forget.
Bryce, a student at Rising Sun Elementary, summed up his frightening afternoon.
"The bus dropped me in a place I wasn't supposed to be," he said.
On his third day of school, he got off the bus at Lofthouse Road. His mother and sister were at his actual bus stop more than a mile away waiting for the bus. Each day, a family member meets the bus and walks Bryce across the street to their home.
On Thursday, Bryce's sister, Emilee, 17, went to get him off the bus. His mom, Charlene, was in their truck nearby.
When Bryce didn't appear, another student told Emilee that Bryce had gotten off at a different stop.
Charlene Hennemuth then talked to the bus driver.
She said she received an "unsatisfactory" answer regarding his whereabouts. "I was dumbfounded. She (the driver) shrugged her shoulders and put her hands up," Hennemuth said.
Between she and her husband, Jeff, the Hennemuths have raised five children. They know the bus procedures. Charlene then called the school. She learned that her son was more than a mile away and that another parent was watching over him. Hennemuth later learned that person was Adrienne Phillips, who is a parent and also a teacher at Rising Sun Middle School. Phillips called Rising Sun Elementary to let them know Bryce's location. "I got in my car to go get him. I was shaking," Hennemuth said.
Rising Sun Elementary assistant principal Sherri Isaac also offered to pick him up and get him home safely.
"A kindergarten student should be escorted from the bus and he was let off randomly. Something needs to be done. This is 2015," said Hennemuth, who works as a Maryland State Police dispatcher.
"Thankfully, he is okay. I just want to make sure this doesn't happen to any other kid. I feel that the systems and safeguards in place failed," said Hennemuth.
"I am thankful that he ended up in the right hands. I'm satisfied with Rising Sun Elementary's response. The bus driver was complacent. I don't want this to happen to anyone else's child," said Hennemuth.
On Friday morning, Rising Sun Elementary School principal Cindy Fitzpatrick met with all the grade level chairs at the school and reminded them of safety concerns. Fitzpatrick said that Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten, and first grade children are escorted from the school to their buses for weeks until they learn the routine. The children also wear name tags with their bus numbers and names.
"We go over procedures all the time. I restated the procedures. The safety of the kids is the most important thing," said Fitzpatrick.
Bryce's family indicated that the bus driver was a substitute. The school system is investigating.
"The safety of our students is our number one priority. When a situation like this occurs, it is thoroughly investigated and then the necessary steps are taken to ensure that our processes are improved upon in order to prevent similar occurrences in the future," said Cecil County Public Schools information officer Kelly Keeton, in an emailed statement.