School bus owner-operator LeReine Frampton said she feels horrible that a kindergartner fell asleep on her bus Friday afternoon and wasn't found until Frampton pulled into her driveway much later.
"I was sick all weekend because of this," Frampton said of the mistake, which occurred as she was dropping off St. Rose School kindergartners last week.
Frampton, who has been driving a school bus since 1996, said Friday was the first time she forgot to drop off a student. Frampton was on the last leg of her St. Rose kindergarten run and mistakenly thought she had dropped off all of her charges after three children got off the bus at one stop.
What the school bus owner-operator hadn't noticed was that a fourth student had remained on the bus and was asleep slouched so far down on the seat that Frampton hadn't seen her when she surveyed the vehicle in her mirror.
Frampton said she went to go on another run at Middle Gate School, picking up those students who didn't say anything to her about the still sleeping kindergartner on the bus. She then went to drop off the Middle Gate students before heading home.
Meanwhile, the kindergartner's father having waited for his daughter to be dropped off and not finding her, called St. Rose School, which rang unanswered, not realizing he should have called the district's transportation office instead, according to Frampton and education officials.
Frampton said when she arrived home, she did a walk of her bus and spotted the sleeping kindergartner, at which point, she immediately delivered the girl safely home.
"The kindergartner wasn't upset," Frampton said. "The child was fine."
Frampton said she apologized profusely to the girl's parents, gave them her cell phone number and then called later that night to make sure everything was OK with the girl.
"It has never happened to me before," Frampton said, adding the first week of school can be difficult.
Mistakes, such as this can happen, and other Newtown parents, such as Kim Weber, said she remembered her daughter being left on the bus on the first day of kindergarten many years ago. While traumatic at the time, Weber said she was later able to joke about it.
At the same time, Board of Education chairman Bill Hart said the mistake was a serious one and that he would like to learn more about how it happened.
"We need to make sure we're not panicking parents," he said.
For instance, one of his questions has to do with a common procedure among bus drivers to walk the length of the vehicle to make sure nothing has been left behind from one run before starting a new one.
"There should be a check and balance," Hart said.
Frampton said by the time she got to Middle Gate School, students were already being loaded onto buses and lined up for hers so she didn't get a chance to walk the length of the bus. She also said she was in the bus at all times and the kindergartner was never left alone in the vehicle.
The school bus owner-operator, who also works as a town Democratic registrar of voters, said she has not been contacted by Hart or the superintendent of schools for them to hear her side of the story, adding she believes she is being targeted due to the school bus contract controversy and unfairly portrayed.
Frampton said she doesn't want parents to be concerned about their children riding her bus.
"I do take care of my kids," she said of the students on her bus.