By James O'Brien, Globe Correspondent, and Stephanie Ebbert, Globe Staff
NORTHBRIDGE -- The school bus driver who allegedly left a 3-year-old on a bus for more than five hours on Monday was accused of leaving another preschooler on the doorstep of a closed day care just a few days before, according to Northbridge School Superintendent Susan M. Gorky.
The mother of the 5-year-old left alone Friday at the home day care was still reeling from her experience when she learned of the second lapse.
" "I said, 'Oh my God, that happened to my son, too," said Devina Nardone of Northbridge, a mother of three. "I feel for the family. I definitely feel for the family."
Nardone said that her son Dylan, 5, was dropped off at his usual day care after preschool last Friday although she had notified the bus company by phone and by e-mail that he should go to a different babysitter's house that day. The bus driver let him off at the house where he sat for 2 1/2 hours, she said.
"I was wicked frantic," she said. "I'm still nervous, and my son's still nervous. Granted, he was home unharmed physically, but emotionally, it's going to take some time for him to not be afraid that it's going to happen again."
The two allegations against the Northbridge bus driver -- whose name was not released -- were the latest to concern parents about school bus drivers around the region. The driver of a school bus in Shrewsbury was fired last fall for making a 9-year-old get off the bus -- at the wrong stop -- after she switched seats. And today brought student cellphone video footage of a Clinton school bus driver texting behind the wheel.
Amanda Ross, a Northbridge mother, said today that Monday's incident seemed like the latest in a series of bad calls by bus drivers.
"You don't know who to trust," Ross said, as she walked to pick up her 6-year-old kindergartener at the W. Edward Balmer Elementary School. "This is ridiculous."
Though the student left on the bus Monday was safe, Ross said it could have been a closer call: "What if it were 90 degrees and that child was left on the bus?"
On Monday, the 3-year-old boy got on the bus at his house at 8:25 a.m. but never got off the bus at the Balmer School. The driver discovered the boy was still on the bus when he returned just before 2 p.m. to pick up high school students, said the superintendent.
The bus driver and a bus monitor, who was also on the bus, were fired Monday by their employer, Vendetti Bus Co., officials said. The driver, who is responsible for making sure students are off the bus, also faces criminal charges, said Gorky, the school superintendent.
Northbridge Police did not identify the driver today but sought a single count of reckless endangerment of a child -- a misdemeanor that could carry a penalty of up to 2 1/2 years in jail -- for the Monday incident. An Uxbridge District Court clerk will now decide whether the evidence warrants a charge.
A Vendetti Bus Company employee declined to comment and hung up on a reporter.
The incident shook the faith of Nicole Johnson, a Northbridge mother who waited in her sport utility van for her 6-year-old outside the Balmer Elementary School today.
"He's not going to ride the bus," Johnson said. "I'll drive or we'll walk, but that is never going to happen to my son."
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