When Champlin resident Melína René’s daughter wasn’t dropped off from school on time Tuesday, Sept. 3, she reached out to the community to see if other Nompeng Academy students in Champlin had made it home by bus.
René posted on a Champlin community Facebook group to see if any area parents had heard an explanation for the bus delay, because the only information the Brooklyn Center-based charter school provided was that buses were running late, she wrote.
Her daughter was supposed to arrive at her Champlin bus stop at 4:16 p.m.
Before reaching out to the police, René also called the bus company to try and figure out the location of the bus and its estimated time of arrival. Around 5:30 p.m., a Pride Transportation dispatcher told René her daughter was the only one on the bus, “because she fell asleep and they found her at the end of the rounds.”
Soon enough, René found out this wasn’t completely true and Champlin police got involved.
Champlin Police Chief Ty Schmidt said the department received a call at 5:45 p.m. “The officer initially tried to resolve it over the phone with the bus company, but the person who he spoke with hung up on him and refused to fully identify himself,” Schmidt said. The company also hung up on multiple parents of students on the bus, Schmidt added.
Then, the officer went to the Maple Grove bus company, Pride Transportation, located on the 8600 block of Jefferson Highway, to find out more information. After the officer identified the person he spoke with on the phone, the Pride Transportation employee, “refused to provide identification, then created several fictitious locations where the bus was supposedly located,” Schmidt said.
Eventually, by 7:30 p.m. the bus arrived at the caller’s bus stop in Champlin, Schmidt said. This was over three hours past the scheduled drop-off time.
René said the remaining children on the bus also got off at her daughter’s stop and police called parents and informed them where they could pick up their children. René told The Press, her family was upset, because “for almost three hours we were thinking she was alone with this man and something was happening to her. René said her daughter hasn’t ridden the bus since last Tuesday.
Contrary to what the dispatcher told René, when the bus arrived almost three hours later, Schmidt said there were at least five children on it. The bus driver told police it was his first day on the job and he got lost, Schmidt added.
On Friday, Sept. 6, a representative from Pride Transportation confirmed that the driver was lost and said the company apologizes to all the families involved. The representative also told The Press the bus has dropped children off on time since the Sept. 3 delay.
According to René, the bus that was delayed last week transports children from both Nompeng Academy and Noble Academy in Brooklyn Park. The Press contacted both schools, but representatives from each charter school declined to comment.
Schmidt said this is the first time he has dealt with this type of case, because the department’s experience with the local bus company has always been positive as they have been cooperative when a bus needed to be located. “This is bizarre behavior for a company that buses children.”
There are currently no criminal charges being pressed, Schmidt added.