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East Grand Forks mom upset over unannounced bus trip to Dairy Queen

Jackie Marks thought her third-grader would be home by 1:30 last Tuesday afternoon, the last day of school.

South Point Elementary in East Grand Forks normally gets out at 3 p.m., but wrapped up early on the last day. By 1:40, she started getting nervous and drove down to the bus stop. Another mom told her some buses take the kids to Dairy Queen on the last day of school, but Marks was unaware of that. She had not been notified by the school or asked to sign a permission slip. She headed to Dairy Queen, where one bus was pulling out and her daughter's bus was still parked and picked up her child.

"I was pretty upset," Marks said.

She said when she told the driver she had been unaware of the trip, he said he had an issue with that last year, too.

It appears some parents did know about the trip, which has happened in years past.

"I'm concerned that this was a field trip with no chaperones," Marks said.

She brought her concerns before the East Grand Forks School Board Monday night.

Superintendent Mike Kolness said communication about the trip had taken place between the drivers and students and that the schools had not made direct contact with the parents. Kolness, in his first year with East Grand Forks, said he understood it to be somewhat of a tradition among some bus drivers in the district to bring the students to Dairy Queen on the last day.

"The driver was trying to do a nice thing," he said.

He said the district has received no other complaints regarding the incident.

"We're going to do everything that we can to take a look at our policies and if we have unscheduled bus stops, we're going to do our best to improve the line of communication," Kolness said.

"We didn't make any decisions (Monday) night," Kolness said. "We let the mother know that we're going to be looking into this and try to find a way we can improve our lines of communication."

But Marks said the district is not taking the issue as seriously as she would like. She believes loose policies on unsanctioned field trips set a poor example for children who might think it is OK to go anywhere with an adult.

"This is not something a bus driver has the power to do," she said.

Marks, who moved to the area two years ago for her husband's new Air Force posting, said friends in other areas have told her the driver should have instantly been fired, if not charged with a crime. Local reaction has been tamer.

"I feel a little bit like we're in some sort of bubble," she said.

Marks said she is fine with bringing the kids for ice cream, but said it was handled the wrong way.

"Times have changed, too," Kolness said. "We need to make sure we're doing things right."

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