BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. (FOX 9) - On Tuesday a bus leaving Nompeng Academy, a charter school in Brooklyn Park, went missing for three hours as parents and police tried to find the seven kids on board.
“It got really scary to whether you were going to see her again,” Rene Harrer said.
Harrer’s 5-year-old granddaughter was supposed to be dropped off at her bus stop in Champlin at around 4:15 p.m. on Tuesday. When the girl still hadn’t been dropped off by 5 p.m., the girl’s family called the school. The school told them the busses were running late.
Soon after, with the little girls still not home and the school closed for the day, the family called the bus company, Pride Transportation, looking for answers. She said the bus company told them several times that she would be home in a few minutes.
“All they kept doing is, '10 more minutes, 10 more minutes,' and then it just kept going into hours and then it got really scary,” Harrer said. “We just wanted the truth. We just wanted to know where she was."
Harrer said the bus company hung up on her or put her on hold multiple times.
“Finally they told me that she had fallen asleep and that they actually where there at 4:15 p.m. and she just didn’t get off the bus and they were doing a final sweep and they found her asleep in the back of the bus so they were on their way to drop her off,” Harrer said.
When the girl still wasn’t home by 5:45 p.m., an hour and a half after she as supposed to be dropped off, Harrer and her family called Champlin Police.
“Our officer made contact with an employee of the bus company, got hung up on a couple times and eventually go the address of the bus company,” Champlin Police Chief Ty Schmidt said.
Chief Schmidt says when the officer got to the Pride Transportation office in Maple Grove at around 6 p.m., employees there couldn’t tell them where the bus full of kids was.
“Not only could they not tell us where it was, they weren’t cooperative with giving us any of the information that they even had,” Chief Schmidt said.
Chief Schmidt says eventually the officer on scene was given a few different stories about where the bus might be, but the intersections the officer was being told about didn’t exist.
At around 7 p.m., about three hours after the girl was supposed to be dropped off at her bus stop in Champlin, the bus arrived to the stop with six other children on board.
“There’s still six kids on the bus that haven’t eaten dinner or gone to the bathroom or anything for three hours,” Harrer said.
Harrer says the bus driver told them someone else from Pride Transportation was coming to the bus stop to take the kids home. Since they were coming from a charter school, some kids still would have had to travel several miles on the bus to different cities before they would be home. Harrer says she and her family told the bus driver to let the rest of the kids off the bus. They helped the kids call their parents to come pick them up at the bus stop in Champlin.
“The kids’ parents finally got there around quarter to eight. So here it is, basically bedtime, and these kids haven’t had dinner or anything yet,” Harrer said.
Chief Schmidt says after talking with the kids on the bus, he doesn’t think anything criminal happened. He said the bus driver told police he was just lost.
“I think it was absolutely ridiculous that we had that had that type of uncooperative behavior from a bus company that’s responsible for people’s children,” Chief Schmidt said.
Chief Schmidt says the case is “pending supervisor review,” but it doesn’t look like there will be a criminal investigation.
FOX 9 reached out to Pride Transportation several times and went to their offices to get a statement. No one responded to our requests.
Harrer said she talked to school officials at Nompeng Academy who told her Pride Transportation will continue driving their busses, at least for now. Harrer says her family plans to give their 5-year-old student rides to and from school until the district “gets this sorted out.”
FOX 9 reached out to the school district via phone and email several times but did not get a response.
A representative from the Minnesota Department of Education said:
“Busing contract, schedule, and driver hiring decisions are all made at the local school district and charter school level.”
The Department of Education did not provide FOX 9 with any information regarding Pride Transportation’s bus licensing or what guidelines are in place for bus driving qualifications.