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School implementing changes after daycare mix-up

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Officials at James A. Jackson Elementary School, in Jonesboro, are moving up their timetable for implementing measures designed to track students who are transported to after-school daycare centers.

The action is being taken after a kindergartner ended up at the wrong childcare facility earlier this week, a school system spokesman said on Thursday.

Officials from the school system and Crestwood Academy daycare center, which is next door to Jackson Elementary, said a child from the school got in the line for Crestwood, when she should have been in the line for another daycare center. The incident took place on Tuesday.

Now, officials at Jackson Elementary are taking steps to prevent such an incident from happening again, after conducting an internal investigation into the matter, according to School System Spokesman Charles White.

"The school has put stringent checks and balances in place, to try to make sure this does not happen again," White said. "Usually, the school uses a checklist to group students by which daycare center they are going to. Each group has its own list, and the lists had not been completely populated yet, because the school's enrollment is still fluctuating.

"The school has moved up its timetable, and is now using the lists ahead of schedule."

The incident led to confusion about where the child -- whom WSB-TV identified as reportedly being 5-year-old Syah Thomas -- was on Tuesday afternoon. White would only say the youth was in her second year as a student at Jackson Elementary. She was reportedly a pre-kindergarten student at the school last year, he said.

On Thursday, a woman who answered the telephone at Crestwood, but refused to give her name, or position at the daycare center, said the youth had previously attended the academy, but stopped coming to the center in 2009.

The woman at Crestwood said the youngster now attends Mount Zion Childcare, which is near Jackson Elementary School and Crestwood, on Mt. Zion Boulevard.

A woman who answered the telephone at Mount Zion Childcare said only the owner could answer questions about the incident, and the owner was out of town on Thursday.

The woman at Crestwood said the child got in line with other students heading for the academy, and told a Crestwood teacher who came to pick up the daycare center's group that "she was coming back to Crestwood." It was not until after the child arrived at Crestwood, and office workers at the academy reviewed their enrollment rolls, that they realized the child was misplaced, the woman at the daycare center said.

"Because Crestwood didn't have a phone number on file anymore for the mother, we didn't know where the child was supposed to go," the woman said.

White said the youngster was placed in the line for her correct daycare center, by her teacher at Jackson Elementary School, but the child left with the Crestwood children anyway, when they were called over the elementary school's intercom system.

The district's spokesman said neither daycare center contacted officials at Jackson Elementary School to notify them that the child was misplaced. Administrators and staff at the school did not know the youngster was missing until the child's mother came to the school that afternoon, and talked to Jackson's after-school coordinator, White said.

"Once made aware that the child was missing, officials at the school initiated protocols to locate the child," White said. "The school began calling the other daycare centers."

By that time, several hours had reportedly passed. The woman reported to be the child's mother, Sasha Thomas, told WSB-TV that she did not know her child was missing until she went to Mount Zion Childcare at approximately 6 p.m.

She told the television news station that she went to Crestwood before going to Jackson Elementary, and was told her child was not at the academy.

The woman, who answered the telephone at Crestwood, said the mother never came to the academy, however, and the child was picked up Tuesday afternoon by another person, and re-united with her mother.

Sasha Thomas told WSB-TV that the child's grandmother had made a second trip to Crestwood, searched the academy herself, and found the youth.

Sasha Thomas could not be reached for comment on Thursday.