FORT SMITH, Ark. - Mother Gabriela Chavarria arrived at Sutton Elementary in Fort Smith, Arkansas Tuesday to pick up her 6-year-old kindergartner, whose name is also Gabriella. But Gabriella was nowhere to be found.
Chavarria told KFSM her daughter's name was called over the speaker - but she never came to the pickup line. She said staff members were searching the school but couldn't find the 6-year-old.
"I felt like my heart was going to come out of my chest. So scared not knowing where she was or what could have happened to her," Chavarria said.
Nearly an hour after school had let out, a family member called and said they found Gabriella: She was at her grandmother's home, about a mile from the school. The mother said her daughter walked there through busy school traffic.
"She's little and not even with me she has never walked with me to there from school," she said.
Chavarria said her 6-year-old walked away from the teacher, whose line she was in while waiting on pickup.
"These are little kids. They are confused, and I want them to pay attention to these kids," Chavarria said.
Gabriela said her child faced bumper-to-bumper traffic that sits next to a four-lane highway to get to her grandmother's home.
She feels like the teachers have too much on their plate and need more help during the rush of pickup and drop-off.
"It's been really frustrating for everybody there. Confusing for the parents and the kids," Chavarria said.
Officials with the Fort Smith School District said a kindergartner walking away from a teacher and the campus is not something that should have happened. They are in the process of looking at their current policy and procedures. They also said they are looking into adding more staff and parent volunteers to the pickup lines.
School officials have also confirmed that they will soon switch to a numbering system for pickup. The child will be assigned a number, and that number will be called out for their pickup.