Experts advise how to prevent a child from being left behind on a field trip
It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. Three-year-old Chloe was supposed to be in the care of her teachers at her day care center. The class had been on a field trip and was visiting St. Catherine’s Park at 67th St and First Avenue. But when the group departed from the park, somehow Chloe was left behind for several hours, and was not reported missing. Luckily, some Good Samaritan parents noticed, comforted her and gave her ice cream while waiting for the police to arrive.
NYPD would not release any other details of the case, other than the fact that Chloe was returned to her guardians.
According to local day care and child care centers, this incident should never have happened, and was an example of preventable negligence. Evan Levey, director of the 74th Street Magic preschool on the Upper East Side, said the incident was probably accidental and not malicious, yet teachers need to be extremely careful when watching over the smaller children.
“They’re 3 year olds. They don’t stand in line perfectly, and they move around,” said Levey. “I’m sure the teacher did what they were supposed to do. Maybe some kid got double counted. We make sure we check our children off a list, and don’t just count them because of the double-counting possibility.”
Levey said that the NYPD responded quickly, calling every pre-school and day care center in the area, including Magic because Chloe apparently did not know the name of her school, which proved to be problematic. She could only identify her teacher as “Miss Vickie.”
But New York City child care centers are actually strictly regulated under Article 47 of the New York City Board of Health Code. Teachers for children ages 2-6 are required to have proper accreditation and degrees. In addition, constant staff supervision of children is required. For children ages 2-3, according to Article 47, there must be a 1:6 teacher/student ratio for proper child care. A child care center cannot just hire a child care worker such as a babysitter or nanny who does not meet the city requirements.
Levey said that their school makes sure that all children know the name of their school and teacher before they go on a field trip. Isabelle Lombardi, the director of Wee Care Preschool on the Upper East Side, said that she puts identification on each child before he or she goes outside.
“We are always diligent,” said Lombardi. “It’s just like parenting. You can’t let your guard slip.”
Another strategy, according to Maria Dantos, the director of the Upper West Side Playgroup, is to have the children wear red and blue pinnies – jumpers worn over clothing –which not only serve as an easy identifier, but also make for quicker and more accurate counting at the end of the day.
At 74th Street Magic, there is a specific process for taking the children on field trips. First of all, said Levey, there are head counts before leaving the classroom, on the bus, and before leaving the field trip destination. In addition, he said, 74th Street Magic does not utilize the colorful, notched ropes kids hold on to, and many schools use to keep them in formation. Levey says that they use the buddy system because “a friend is going to tell on you if you wander astray, but a rope will not.” At Wee Care Preschool staff makes sure that the teacher to student ratio is just right, so that a teacher only has to be in charge of a few kids when they go on field trips.
“Have safety checks. Our teachers go through health and safety training,” said Maria Dantos, the director and owner of the Upper West Side Playgroup. “There were a million different ways to prevent something like this from happening.”
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