AUBURN — Northeast Charter, a private bus company that contracts with the Auburn School Department to provide student transportation, is reviewing its protocols to ensure drivers don’t leave children on the bus after a pre-kindergarten student was left alone in a parked bus Thursday.

According to Auburn Superintendent Katy Grondin, a driver making a bus run at noon Thursday for pre-kindergarten students had fueled up, parked his bus at the company garage, and was walking into the Northeast office “when the mom called and said that her child did not get off the bus.”

“The minute they heard, the driver ran back to the bus and the student was sitting there,” said Grondin. She estimated the girl was alone on the bus for about five minutes. She said the driver, who was not identified, was very upset about the situation.

The driver took the child to her home and apologized to her mother, Grondin said. She noted that the mother was very understanding, telling the driver “people make mistakes, these things happen.”

Once the driver returned to Northeast, the office made the School Department aware of the situation, Grondin said.

Northeast drivers are supposed to walk the bus after returning to the garage and then put a sign on the vehicle noting that the bus is empty, she said. “So, I’m not sure” how the child was left behind Thursday, but the company has “set protocols to make sure this doesn’t happen,” she said.

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The company “understands the seriousness of this,” Grondin said, noting that it is very rare for drivers to leave a child on a school bus.

“We’re pleased the student is safe and wasn’t in the bus very long,” she said, and also pleased Northeast addressed the situation immediately.

Scott Riccio, president and owner of Northeast Charter, declined to comment Friday and referred all questions about Thursday’s incident to Grondin.

The Auburn School Department initiated its contract with Northeast in July 2013 as a budget measure to save about $300,000 to maintain its own fleet and employees.

Northeast Charter and Tour Co. is on Goddard Road in Lewiston and has been in business since 1999. It also has locations in Lincolnville and Southern Maine.

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