Kindergartener forgotten by after school program, walks 2.5 miles home alone
HAYWARD, Calif. (KTVU) - A 5-year-old boy forgotten by his after school program on his first day of kindergarten decided to find his own way home - walking 2.5 miles through busy streets as he navigated his way using landmarks he recognized.
Duana Kirby tells KTVU her heart sunk when she got a call from Jackson that he had walked home from Fairview Elementary School. Her first question was, "Why did you take your phone to school?" Jackson responded, "Mommy, I'm at home."
As Kirby learned her son had walked home alone, panic set in. She rushed home to make sure Jackson was OK. As Jackson explained what happened, Kirby learned her son went to the bathroom down the hall at 12:20 p.m. Monday when school got out.
During that time an instructor for the Youth Enrichment Program, which provides afterschool care for children, stopped by and wrote his name on the board. Kirby says, instead of waiting for him, the instructor went to pick up other kids from their classes. At one point, Jackson's teacher was told he had been picked up for the program.
When Jackson returned from the bathroom he found an empty classroom.
The little boy grabbed his backpack and lunch pail and headed outside where kids were waiting for their parents. Jackson decided to take the matter into his own hands as he set out on foot, in hopes of finding his way home.
"Jackson saw a building he knows he can see from our house. So he told me he thought if he could get to that building, he could get home," said Kirby.
Kirby and her husband have taught Jackson about always looking both ways before he crosses streets. He told her he knew he could cross the street when cars stopped.
Jackson took seven streets on his route home and crossed a street without being in the crosswalk.
Kirby was relieved her son was OK, but is worried about his safety moving forward.
"The only reason he is still in the after school program is because my husband and I are both mail carriers - so we have to use it - but I'm not comfortable with it," she said.
Kirby says she will be stopping by the school each day at dismissal this week to observe Jackson's transition to after school care, as she figures out what to do moving forward.
The Hayward Unified School District released the following statement, "The safety and security of our students is our highest priority. The district currently has policies and procedures in place to ensure the safety of children while at school and in our afterschool programs. We take this incident very seriously and are investigating to determine what steps need to be taken to ensure that this does not happen again."
On that same day a six year old girl went unaccounted for 90 minutes. It happened at the same after school program YEP, but at a different school, Cherryland Elementary.
When the mother of first grader Juliana Obleton came to pick her up Monday, they say the school didn't know where Juliana was.
"It was terrifying. It still bothers me," said Juliana's grandmother Janette Vargas.
It turned out Juliana ended up in the wrong after school classroom. But she was safe.
"We did our part to be ready for when school started. You would think they would have everything ready as well. Apparently, they did not," said Vargas.
They are two traumatized families who are grateful, but upset.
"Would you want to do that walk again?" we asked Jackson.
"No," he quickly replied.
The two families want answers. The parents of the little boy say they are planning to hire an attorney.