News Obits School/Sports Community Opinion

— Brief confusion occurred last Friday when some Decatur students accidentally boarded a school bus bound for Gentry schools.

The incident took placed on west Y-City Road, the boundary line in places between the Gentry and Decatur School Districts. Unaware of some route changes, Susan Thompson thought her children were boarding a Decatur bus but soon realized it was a Gentry bus when it headed in the wrong direction to be going to Decatur.

After she called one of her children on a cell phone and told them of the mistake, the bus driver stopped and letthem off for her to pick up - she followed the bus in her vehicle.

Gentry school buses cross or share paths with Decatur and Siloam Springs buses and probably Bentonville on the boundaries, said Gentry School District superintendent Dr. Randy Barrett.

"Gentry consolidated some routes this year when we eliminated one country bus route," Barrett said. "Friday's driver was on a portion of a route that was new to her.

Even if that were not the case, in the first few days of school new students crop up where none were last year.

"It just wasn't that big a deal," Barrett said. "The students were never at risk. The parent and students were incommunication via one of the Decatur student's cell phones.

Decatur and Gentry schools are good neighbors. If the students hadn't figured out they were on the wrong bus, we would have driven them on up to Decatur after we dropped off our own students," Barrett said. "Mr. Ortman at Decatur would have done the same thing for us," he said.

"I'm not sure how many people know it, but a Decatur bus stops and picks up Gentry students on the way to the Alternative School in Siloam Springs every day. Our participation helps offset the expense to Decatur and costs less for us, too, than sending our own bus. We have a long history of working togetherwhen it meets both our needs," Barrett said.

Decatur superintendent LeRoy Ortman said it was a misconception that the students were left alone on a country road. He explained that the Gentry bus driver's onboard camera actually video taped the youngsters being picked up by their mother.

"The kids were in eyesight, or at least rearview-mirror sight, of the driver the whole time," he said.

"They were never in harm's way; it was just a mix-up," said Patsy Wilkins of Decatur's transportation department.

Gentry buses cross into the Decatur school district to pick up a number of children who have filed school choice forms to transfer to Gentry, she said.

News, Pages 3 on 08/26/2009

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