Rylan Kirkham, 4, was reunited with his father yesterday outside the family’s Auwaiolimu Street apartment.

Boy eludes Pauoa
A+ staff on first day
of kindergarten

The first day of kindergarten can be scary for some children, but for 4-year-old Rylan Kirkham, the trouble began after the school bell rang at the end of the day.


Instead of going to the A+ after-school program at Pauoa Elementary School, he wandered off unsupervised and found his way home nearly two hours later, climbing a hillside and crossing a busy street to get there.

"My child could have died by being run over by a car, abducted by a stranger or God knows what else," his father, James "Rick" Kirkham, said yesterday. "The fact that he made it home is an act of God. The fact that Pauoa and A+ procedures allowed my son to walk home alone is an act of extreme negligence."

Rylan's parents found out about their son's disappearance only after a neighbor spotted the small brown-haired boy with a big backpack in the parking lot of their apartment building on Tuesday. A+ staff did not notify his parents of his absence, Kirkham said.

The A+ program at Pauoa is run by the school itself, rather than a private provider.

Principal Gregg Lee said the students' safety is a top priority at the school, and he will be making several changes to ensure that such a mistake never happens again.

"I cannot overemphasize our concern for the child's safety," Lee said. "We are particularly concerned because of his age, and it was the first day of school when we want everything to be a positive experience."

A+ monitors are supposed to walk kindergartners from their classrooms to the cafeteria and report any unexpected absences. But somehow Rylan was overlooked, Lee said.

Instead of taking kindergartners to the cafeteria, the school will now keep them in a kindergarten classroom and adjoining playground for the A+ program, Lee said. Each child will be given a name tag, and head counts will be taken regularly. Group leaders will also be issued walkie-talkies to improve communications on campus.

Kirkham said he was gratified by the changes planned, but he will wait until they are implemented before putting Rylan back in A+.

Rylan told his parents that it was raining when he walked to his apartment on the slopes of Punchbowl and that he used the crosswalk on Auwaiolimu Street. His father quoted him as saying, "A truck and car stop for me when I walk in the lines."



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