Whitesburg KY
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School board hears from parents of boy who went missing


The parents of a child who went missing for more than 30 minutes when he walked away from a playground and onto a busy highway have filed a formal complaint with the Letcher County Public Schools.

Andrew and Ashli Fugate of Jeremiah went to the Board of Education meeting Monday night to air their grievances about how their five-year-old son managed to slip away from teachers during recess, walk across the railroad tracks and up the highway toward home.

They said the teachers in charge of watching the students were sitting together on the opposite end of the playground and didn’t see their son, Colton, slip away through an unfenced part of the playground.

Colton is a kindergartener at Letcher Elementary and Middle School. The Fugates say teachers did not know he was missing until they lined the kids up to go back inside and counted them. The teacher then went to the edge of the hill at the railroad and began looking for him and a neighbor asked if she was looking for a child, Ashli Fugate said.

“The neighbor informed her she had seen a child walking along the highway earlier,” she said.

According to the latest information, Colton was within a few hundred yards of the school when a couple passing by saw him and stopped and attempted to get him to get in the truck and go back to school with them. He then ran across the highway screaming because he had been told not to get into a stranger’s car. The man crossed the road and walked with him while his wife and another couple blocked traffic. They walked about another mile along KY 7 before the man’s wife was able to get out of the vehicle and hold Colton’s hand until someone from the school arrived, witnesses said.

“Our son could have been killed, and we could be involved in a search and recovery effort right now due to reckless behavior and incompetent leadership,” Ashli Fugate said.

Andrew Fugate also spoke, reading off a board policy that says the first course of action when a child is missing is to call 9-1- 1 and then call the parents. However, they say no one at the school called 9-1-1 and no one called them until their son had already been found and returned to school.

He read a series of laws and state regulations that he and Ashli Fugate say teachers and the principal violated, and asked the board to discipline the teachers and the principal involved.

The three members of the board who were present, Will Smith, Lena Parsons and chairwoman Mendy Boggs, and Superintendent

Denis Yonts sat silently while the Fugates made their presentation. When the Fugates finished, the board moved on to the next agenda item with no comment from any of the staff or board.

Also at the meeting Monday night, the board:

• Approved the superintendent’s plan to allow students to have a “test and stay” option. If students have been exposed to COVID 19, they can opt to be tested for the virus using an instant test every morning, and a more accurate PCR test every other day. Students who voluntarily do that can still attend inperson classes, but cannot participate in extracurricular activities such as sports until their quarantine is over.

• Voted to increase the price of adult lunches from $3.75 to $4.75. The change will meet the guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the district to continue universal free lunches for students.

• Heard a report from Director of Pupil Personnel Karen Baker that attendance is slowly rising following extremely low attendance earlier in the year because of COVID-19. The latest district attendance rate is 86.5 percent, Baker said.

• Heard a report from teacher and classified organization leaders that they are satisfied with the progress of talks underway with the administration about future raises and benefits.

• Approved agreements with surrounding school districts to accept nonresident students.

• Voted to buy four new International buses under the state price contract

• Approved a contract to provide services for hearing impaired students in the Knott County School District.

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