A kindergartner got on the wrong school bus Wednesday, walked into an unfamiliar school and was greeted by another child’s name.
Janeya Nevins spent the day in a first-grade classroom, carefully writing her new name on her worksheets. Her mother had no idea she was in the wrong school until she wasn’t on the bus that afternoon.
Schenectady Superintendent Laurence Spring said the girl “misled” teachers by accepting the name of another student.
Teachers were expecting a new first-grader who did not arrive, Spring said, and asked Nevins if she was that student.
She said yes.
“While that was wrong, we have to remember that she is a kindergartner who was alone,” Spring said.
Schools spokeswoman Karen Corona added that the district wasn’t blaming Nevins.
“We are not placing blame on a 5-year-old. We were pointing out how her response and behavior contributed to the confusion and how she managed to be in the wrong school for the day,” Corona said.
Nevins attends Howe Early Childhood Center, but took the wrong bus to Yates Arts in Education Magnet School.
Officials at Howe never called to say Nevins was absent, Corona said.
Patricia Rodriguez went to her bus stop after school, but her daughter didn’t get off the bus. When she called, administrators said Nevins hadn’t been at school all day.
School officials said they located Nevins a short time later.
They said the problem was made worse by Nevins “assuming the identity” of another student, suggesting she did it on purpose.
Spring said he also plans to tighten busing procedures to prevent other children from getting on the wrong bus. At Nevins’ stop, two buses arrive at the same time to go to two separate schools, Corona said.
Spring said that system needs to be clearer.
“It can be confusing for both the bus driver and the parents when different buses with different destinations pick up kids at the same stop,” he said. “We are exploring ways to help make it clear to parents which bus their child should be riding each day, regardless of who is driving.”
He also wants all bus drivers to have a list of passengers and to know how to inform the school if an unknown student gets on the bus.
“It’s about putting a more effective communication system into place,” said Spring. “We have to know where the kids are.”
Corona said the bus drivers already have a list, but don’t turn away other kids who get on board.
She also said the confusion at the school began because teachers were trying to welcome a new student.
“The school was expecting a new student and was putting out the welcome mat,” Corona said. “She is welcomed as the new student and brought to the class where the new student was expected to go. She was welcomed by her teacher. Her name was written down to identify her desk. She was introduced to the other students.”
Spring also acknowledged that new students usually arrive with a parent on their first day, making it unlikely for Nevins to be a new student. But he said school officials went through the intake process anyway, without independently confirming the child’s identity.
That will change, Spring said.
“We will be taking a close look at our school intake process and develop a system to ensure the identification of any new students as they enter the schools,” he said, adding that “we should have discovered where this child was.”
He was discussing the issue with Nevins’ mother on Thursday.
“We regret that Ms. Rodriguez spent yesterday afternoon worrying about her child,” he said. “I understand her concerns.”