A litany of school bus errors has turned the new school year into a nightmare for a Brooklyn 5-year-old boy with autism and his furious parents.
After his school bus failed to show up for two weeks, non-verbal student Nicholas Hionas finally got a pick up Thursday morning -- only to get left at the wrong school.
Instead of getting dropped at P.S. 282 in Park Slope, the boy was put out at a school almost half a mile away, his parents said.
It was “all my fears coming into a ball,” his dad Peter Hionas told The Daily News.
Fortunately, a good Samaritan teacher at P.S.133, the school where the bus incorrectly left Nicholas, spotted the lost boy and found the emergency contact information his parents had scrawled on his belongings.
But Hionas said the error could’ve ended in tragedy.
“God knows what would’ve happened,” he said.
The bus company, the Education Department, and the Office of Pupil Transportation “all get a share of the blame,” he added.
Hionas was at a breaking point even before disaster struck Thursday.
Nicholas didn’t get bus service until Thursday, despite the fact that transportation is guaranteed in the boy’s special education plan. Logan Bus Company – which has admitted to bribing inspectors in the past – was only assigned the route for the first time Thursday, according to a company spokesman. A different bus company should have been picking up Nicholas prior to then, the spokesman said.
On Thursday, when the bus did show up, it came almost an hour late and didn’t have a car seat for the 35-pound Nicholas.
Hionas had a “gut feeling” something else would go wrong, and decided to drive to his son’s school to meet the bus.
When he got there just after 9 a.m., school officials told him Nicholas hadn’t arrived yet. Hionas assumed the bus was stuck in traffic.
20 minutes later, a teacher at P.S. 133 called Hionas to tell him he’d found Nicholas.
“That’s when it got scary,” Hionas recalled. “I said, ‘where the hell is P.S. 133?”
He rushed over and found his son sitting in the school’s main office with a staffer.
Hionas took his frightened son home and posted about the ordeal on Facebook. He got a personal call from Kevin Moran, the head of the Office of Pupil Transportation, apologizing and ensuring him the bus company would be fined, Hionas said.
Moran told The News that “Office of Pupil Transportation staff will be on-site tomorrow to ensure the issue is resolved and I will personally follow-up with the family.”
The city’s troubled yellow bus system, which transports 150,000 students every day, is straining to shed a history of delays, botched routes, and shoddy communication.
The transportation office has struggled to deliver on a promise to give city parents real-time GPS updates on bus locations this year – a failure that traces back to years of mismanagement of the GPS contract, according to a scathing recent city investigation. The Education Department recently signed a contract to equip buses with new GPS technology and create an app parents can use to track buses in real time.
The city’s also promised to be more aggressive in fining bus companies for errors.
Corey Muirhead, a spokesman for Logan Bus Company, said “Logan is extremely saddened and apologetic to Nicholas and his family. We had a safety officer ride the route this afternoon, and we have placed a more experienced Matron to service this route.”
State Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D – Brooklyn), who spoke with Hionas after the terrifying ordeal, said “this situation was beyond outrageous and unacceptable. Dropping off a nonverbal child at the wrong place could have resulted in tragedy…DOE and OPT must be held accountable so parents do not have to fear sending their kids to school.”