Parent's plea for a phone call

By Roger Moroney

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A school group from Putaruru was impressed with what Hawke's Bay had to offer but less than impressed at the response a parent helper got when she stopped to try to make a phone call after realising she had taken the wrong road home.

"It was a couple of weeks ago but I'm still shaking my head about it," was how Te Waotu School principal Bruce Darroch described the moment that marred what he said until then had been a perfect camping holiday for the pupils, parents and teachers.

The parent helper had stopped at the Waikare Hotel and asked if she could use a phone to contact waiting staff and parents, but was refused.

It was a situation which, when she was told about it, upset hotel manager Tarn Butcher because it was "definitely not" a policy she had in place. She had not heard about the incident but said it was not good, given there were children involved, and said she would speak with staff to clarify things.

The school group of about 80 arrived in the Bay on March 19 for a five-day camping adventure.

"I'm a Hawke's Bay boy so we organise a visit to the Bay every three or four years. The kids loved it - especially the friendliness of all the people they met," Mr Darroch said.

Everyone was impressed with the variety of activities, and the fine weather.

"As a Napier 'old boy' I felt a degree of pride at how things were going down in my home province."

It was on the return journey to Putaruru that things went wrong.

One parent helper, driving a van containing seven youngsters, missed the turn-off to Taupo at Eskdale and mistakenly drove north, toward Wairoa on SH2.

After about an hour, when the woman spotted railway tracks, she realised she was on the wrong road, and became concerned about the children's parents, who would be waiting at the school.

She tried to use her cellphone but there was no coverage.

Mr Darroch said she went to a couple of houses to ask if she could use their phones but no one was home.

"So she went to a hotel on the main road and politely asked if she could use the phone."

But a woman at the bar said no, she could not, and told her to keep driving until she found an area of cellphone coverage.

"No amount of pleading would change her mind and she ended up in tears," Mr Darroch said. "She wanted to call to say she would be late getting back, but that the children were all safe and well."

He said he became concerned after arriving back at the Waikato school, with the other vans which had not been far apart, and discovering one was missing.

But some luck had been on the distressed parent's side.

After leaving the hotel and heading back toward Napier and the turn-off, she found a pocket of cellphone coverage. She rang a neighbour of the school to say what had happened, and to pass it on.

Mr Darroch got the message about 15 minutes after the main group had arrived, and allayed any concern the overdue children's parents may have had.

Ms Butcher said the Waikare Hotel was popular with bus passengers and motorists. Some asked, and were allowed, to use the phone, and she'd had "lots" of positive feedback, which made the recent incident an isolated and disappointing one.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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