Seven-year-old Moses Ismerio-Goddard sat on his school bus for four hours Tuesday after his ride home was delayed by a police-ordered lockdown at a school he doesn’t even attend.
When he finally got off the bus at 7:15 p.m., Moses was looking worn and haggard, recalled his mother, Jennifer Ismerio.
“You should have seen him,” Ismerio said. “It was so sad. He got off the bus soaked with pee. I felt so bad for him. First words out of his mouth were ‘Mom, I’m hungry. Can we go get something to eat?’ I said, ‘Absolutely, don’t worry about your homework tonight.'”
Steve Graves said he watched his 8-year-old daughter, Skye, do the “pee-pee dance” when she got off the same school bus.
“She had tears she had to pee so bad,” Graves said. “We didn’t think we were going to make it, but we ran to a gas station restroom.”
Like air travelers stranded on a runway waiting for liftoff permission from the control tower, children were stuck on 18 buses that could not leave a school parking lot for two hours because of a public safety issue.
Because they were magnet school students who come from all over the county, students such as Moses and Skye faced a regular two-hour ride home after the two-hour wait.
Parents complained they were never told about the bus delay, but bus officials said they sent out e-mails and noted that reports of a school lockdown ordered by the North Las Vegas Police Department were “all over the news.”
Ismerio said she learned about the delay secondhand from a friendly neighbor named “Norm” who watches over the school bus stop.
Graves said he learned about the delay after waiting for 15 minutes at the bus stop. Another parent whose child had a cell phone then told him what was happening. Graves said he learned his lesson.
The family bought a cell phone for Skye because of the event, Graves said. “It’s horrible. I was a teacher 10 years ago. You don’t treat parents like this.”
On Thursday, Clark County school board members asked Superintendent Walt Rulffes to look into the situation. “A child cannot sit on a bus that long in an emergency situation,” said School Board member Terri Janison. “It’s unacceptable.”
Lauren Longmire, director of bus operations, said bus officials acted appropriately given circumstances that were beyond their control. “With lockdowns, there are always unknowns,” she said.
North Las Vegas police asked school officials to lock down three schools — Gilbert, Fitzgerald and Booker elementary schools — because of shots fired in the area. As a precaution, children were not allowed to leave the schools until police determined the situation was safe.
The lockdowns backed up the transportation system since buses were not allowed to depart from these schools until the situation was clear.
Because Gilbert is not a neighborhood school, its students needed to go to a transportation hub where they could change buses and ride home. In this case, the hub was Mackey Elementary, where Moses, a student from Hoggard Elementary, had already changed buses. His new bus was not allowed to leave until the Gilbert students arrived.
Longmire explained that buses could not leave because officials did not know how long the lockdown was going to last.
Plus, they could not let “students run and play” because they did not have the staff to supervise them. Because the lockdown started around 3 p.m., most of the regular staff at Mack Elementary had gone home.
But students were let out in pairs to use the restroom and stretch their legs, Longmire said.
Ismerio did not think this was adequate. “There are so many kids,” she said. “You’re going to let them out two by two? At least let all the girls or all the boys go at once.”
Ismerio said she sympathized with the school system, but officials need to study “what they could do differently” next time.
Contact reporter James Haug at jhaug @reviewjournal.com or 702-799-2922.