Stranded school bus driver left students with stranger, Portland mom says

A stranded Oregon school bus driver caught in snow reportedly left students with a stranger. (Source: KPTV)
Published: Feb. 24, 2023 at 6:59 AM PST
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - School buses loaded with kids were among the vehicles stranded on Portland metro area roads on Wednesday, and several people aren’t happy with the way Portland Public Schools handled the situation.

A PPS special education bus driver is frustrated, saying the school district should have called for an early release because of the snow.

“This was a big risk and it wasn’t safe, it just wasn’t safe,” Carol Heacock said.

SEE ALSO: Historic snowstorm brings almost a foot of snow to parts of metro area

Heacock says the brunt of this falls on the transportation department. When there’s inclement weather, she says they check the roads in the early morning to decide whether to delay or cancel classes.

“We went through this once before and I believe all of our drivers and our department saw this coming, and asked if we can please have an early release. I don’t understand why that didn’t happen,” she said.

That decision led to several school buses stranded across the city, and nearly 24 hours later, some were still stuck.

On Wednesday night, one bus in particular was working late into the night. One mom told FOX 12 the bus was stranded near Northeast 87th and Northeast Beech and was carrying eight students, including her 11-year-old son who attends Roseway Heights Middle School.

“He tells me the bus is stuck, that Good Samaritans were trying to help get the bus unstuck without success,” Amanda Matheny said.

But then Matheny says the unthinkable happened.

“Apparently, the bus driver left them at this woman’s home and was no longer there,” she said. “Told me that they had went into a woman’s home that was looking after him and the seven other kids that were on the bus.”

Matheny says the Good Samaritan claimed she worked for David Douglas School District and had two kids that went to McDaniel High School.

“I really appreciated her, but the driver should’ve never left those kids in a strangers care anyway. Safety reasons, you don’t know who it is,” Matheny said.

She says a second bus picked up the students and her son got home at 11:30 p.m. Heacock and Matheny say decisions should have been made differently.

“If they had closed schools earlier and if they had gotten the chains on the buses earlier and had the buses leave the bus barn earlier, they could’ve may be avoided getting stuck, and gotten the kids home before the snow got worse,” said Matheny.

The school district released a statement expressing gratitude to educators, staff, leaders and families for getting kids home safe. They say the safety of students remain a priority.

Full PPS statement:

“PPS extends our sincere gratitude to the educators, school leaders, staff, community partners, and families across our system who ensured all of our students arrived home safely last night. We are continuing to assess road conditions to determine when our schools will be able to safely reopen. The safety and well being of our students and staff is our primary concern, and we won’t waiver in that commitment.”