Parents upset about stuck kids after school bus crash

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) On the first day of school, a busload of young students was stranded at the side of the road on their way home. Parents said they are frustrated by the delay - first, in finding out where the kids were, and, second, actually getting the children off the very hot bus.

It was a Greenfield Union School District bus with kindergarten students, first-graders and second-graders. They left Granite Pointe Elementary School, but the bus got into a fender-bender on Taft Highway, east of South H Street.

Greenfield assistant superintendent Kenneth Chichester said the driver spotted a parent he thought might have a student on the bus.

"He stopped, pulled over on Taft Highway, and was backing up to talk to that parent," Chichester told Eyewitness News, "and actually hit a pole."

No one was hurt, but the accident meant the district had to call out the California Highway Patrol.

"We have to follow the direction of the CHP," Chichester said. "At that point, they limit who goes on the bus, and then we have to wait before they tell us we can release students."

Meanwhile, parents waited at a bus stop near Taft Highway and Ramos.

"We were here waiting for the bus to show up," Jason Hardin described. "After they were about 30 minutes late, I called my mom to have them call the school."

Hardin said he finally found out the bus was still at the scene of the crash. But, that set up more delays. Parents drove over but couldn't get their kids off the bus until the CHP was through with its investigation.

"I was concerned, because they were left with no AC," Monica Lopez said.

Monday's temperatures did hit about 108 degrees in Kern County. Lopez had a kindergarten student and first-grader on the bus.

Lopez also complained the school hadn't let parents know about the delay.

"I'm waiting, all the parents were hysterical, because we don't know," she said.

And, parent Rose Hernandez said the kids were upset, too.

"My daughter told me there were a lot of kids crying, and they were very anxious," she said. She was also frustrated. "Nobody ever called me."

Chichester said it was tough to reach parents.

"We have people calling in (to the school), tying up phone lines," he said. "You still don't know (which student) has been picked up, and who hasn't been picked up."

The administrator said some students were put on another bus for a ride, and some had been retrieved by their parents where the accident happened. He said there were about 50 students on the bus, and about 35 were picked up at the accident scene.

But, Jason Hardin asked why didn't the school notify every parent with a child on that bus?

"Call everybody, and send out that information," he said. "And everybody knows if they've got their kid or not."

He also said he thinks a district staff member was allowed on the bus, even though parents were being kept out. Hardin just wanted to be sure his little girls were OK.

On Tuesday, the bus made it to the bus stop right on time. One kid yelled, "No crash today," as he jumped off. Another parent said she thinks the school was doing the best it could after the minor accident.

"It's difficult, at best," Chichester said. "Good or bad communication, is why we have good things happen or bad things happen."

The administrator said at least one child was very upset about the hot delay on the stranded bus.

"I had a parent this morning upset, and their child was afraid to go to school," Chichester said, adding they had counselors ready to help kids.

And, the district is also looking at their communication process.

"Would we like to do it quicker and better? Yes," Chichester said. "And we did have a meeting to figure out how we might be able to do that."

"That would be nice," parent Jason Hardin said. "I want the notification thing. It was just really upsetting to have to call them to find out what was going on."

Parent Lopez agreed.

"I'd like to know if there's anything better they can do next time so this won't happen," Lopez said.