NEWS
01/11/2017 17:14 EST | Updated 01/12/2018 00:12 EST

'My toes were freezing,' says 9-year-old after school bus skips pickup

A Winnipeg mother says St. James-Assiniboia School Division failed her daughter, after the nine-year-old was left outside for hours when her school bus failed to pick her up.

On Tuesday, Izabelle Roberts and her nine-year-old daughter Tumia got up around 7 a.m. to get ready for school. An hour later, the Grade 4 student left their Bruce Avenue home and walked to her bus stop, located five houses away.

The school bus typically picks her up four minutes later, so Izabelle Roberts left for work.

"By 8:05 there were no calls or cancellations. No calls of late buses. Nothing," she said. "I felt confident the bus was going to pick her up."

Tumia waited close to 45 minutes for the bus on the corner of Conway Street and Bruce Avenue before she decided to walk home.

After discovering her front door was locked, Tumia ran around to the back of the house and managed to push a garbage bin against the six-foot fence and pull herself over it. She quickly checked the other doors to see if there was a way into the house, but both were locked.

'Really cold and scared'

"I was feeling really cold and scared," Tumia said. "My mom's usual lunch break is 12 [p.m.] or 11 [a.m.] and I didn't want to wait that long. I didn't know what to do."

Tumia lay down in her snowsuit, crawled into a ball and shielded her face from the cold wind with her backpack.

"My toes were really freezing," says Tumia. "I couldn't even feel them anymore."

Two-and-a-half hours later, with temperatures well into the –20s, Izabelle Roberts got a call from her daughter's school, École Assiniboine, asking why Tumia wasn't in class. Roberts repeatedly told the secretary her daughter had taken the bus, but the school said she never made it.

"I came home as fast as I could. She wasn't there," Roberts said with tear-filled eyes. "I went to the bus stop. She wasn't there. I came home and started calling her name and she was in the backyard, half frozen."

Roberts rushed her daughter inside the house, wrapped her tightly in a warm blanket and took her to Grace Hospital's emergency room. Tumia was checked out and released hours later.

"I trusted the system. At some point you have to let somebody take care of them for you. Like the school. Make sure they are safe. They failed. No one is taking responsibility," said Roberts.

School division investigating 

The chief superintendent of the St. James-Assiniboia School Division has been in contact with Vital Transit, the company that currently holds the division's bus transportation contract.

Brett Lough said because of an accident on Route 90, the driver decided not to pick up a portion of his route because he was running late. He said a miscommunication around that decision resulted in the missed pickup.

Nine other students were also left outside. Lough said the driver will no longer be working with the division.

"We will be reviewing our process and our protocols in this extreme weather so no other student is compromised," he said. "Our number 1 thing is to ensure the safety of kids."

CBC has reached out to Vital Transit.

Meanwhile, Izabelle Roberts says she's just happy her daughter is OK.

"I will take an extra 15 minutes now and wait for the bus to get there. In a month or so, when she's mentally and emotionally ready to start walking again, I will call the school by 8:30 to make sure she's there," she said.

"If they find me annoying, so what."