Ocean County Boy, 6, Left on School Bus After First Day of School, Prompting Town-Wide Search
BERKELEY — A township first-grader had a scary first day of school when he didn't get off at his stop and instead wound up at the bus garage.
His brief disappearance on Tuesday afternoon prompted a township-wide search by school officials, neighbors and police.
His grandmother, Kathy Kenny, said that 6-year-old Trent Kenny, a first grader at the Clara B. Worth School in the Bayville section of this Ocean County township, didn't get off at his stop with his two cousins on Tuesday afternoon.
According to Kenny, the driver said that he let him off at Maryland and Arlington Avenues. Kathy and her son —Trent's father — headed over to the intersection but he not where to be found.
They called Berkeley police and drove back to the school where Kenny said the principal, vice principal and teachers immediately went into action trying to locate the first-grader.
"The school did a tremendous job," Kathy Kenny said, adding that every available police officer seemed to be helping along with friends and neighbors.
"It's was unbelievable how a community can come together to look for a child. The school itself, the principal, vice principal, teachers were calling around the neighborhood" asking if they had seen Trent on the bus," Kenny said. "You saw people coming out of their homes. Cars were riding on the street. People all over were looking all over. It was amazing. The cops were here in no time at all. I didn't even know we had that many cop cars in Bayville."
Kenny is upset that the school was in communication via radio with the driver and took his word that he checked for Trent.
"How do you not turn around and say 'is anyone on this bus named Trent?' I don't understand what went on here."
Trent was upset and was afraid he would not ever see his family again after he got separated from his cousins, Kenny said.
Berkeley schools Superintendent Dr. James Roselli confirmed there was an incident involving a student on a bus on Tuesday but could not go into any detail.
"This is concerning," Roselli said. "I'm a father of four. My business administrator has six kids of his own. We're all parents here and this is something we want to make sure doesn't happen again so we're taking all the necessary steps and taking this extremely serious. I've been in contact with the principal and the family. They've been very good throughout this process."
Kenny said transportation officials told her the driver told them that he pulled over and checked to see if Trent was sleeping on the bus.
"It's 4 o' clock and we have no child. Get this bus driver. Where is the bus driver?"
Roselli said that the district handles its busing within the district and does not contract it out.
Trent finally showed up a half hour later on another bus. According to Kathy Kenny, all the other students from the school were dropped off and the driver then started his second run of students from another school.
"He was down Route 9. He told me he saw Shop Rite and was the only one on the bus," Kenny said.
After the second school's students were dropped off, Kenny said Trent told her the driver ignored him when he asked how much longer the ride would be. When the bus returned to the bus lot, another woman got on the bus, according to Kathy, and asked Trent his name.
"She said 'everyone's looking for you' and brought him back."
While not able to comment on this specific case, Roselli said that "policies and procedures are in place and we are following them to the T. Basic things that drivers have to do when they're driving their route and when they complete their route. There are things that are a requirement for every driver not only in Berkeley but in the state of New Jersey."
Berkeley police and Ocean County Sheriff Mike Mastronardy did not comment on the incident.
Kenny said that the sheriff's department, the principal and vice principal, and teachers all came to her home to make sure Trent was okay.
"They always say it takes a village to raise a child. Let me tell you something. Bayville raised this child today."