AISD teacher on administrative leave after student wanders away

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by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and Photojournalist MATT OLSEN

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on August 30, 2013 at 6:06 PM

Updated Wednesday, Oct 30 at 10:16 AM

AUSTIN -- We all know the old saying, a picture's worth a thousand words, but the one taken by Martin Lopez Thursday morning just leaves many people with a lot of questions.

"She was just standing there. And when I ran out I said 'Mejita [little girl]!' I said 'get over here,'" recalled Lopez. 

The former U.S. Marine was making breakfast around 10:30 am when he looked out the window and saw a young girl standing in the middle of a very busy East Saint John's Avenue.

"See where that sewer drain's at," said Lopez, pointing to the middle of the road. "She was right in the middle of the intersection -- I just stopped what I was doing and I went over and just kept her from getting run over."

Lopez, who is still recovering from knee surgery, ran to the girl without thinking about his own injury. 

The four-year-old was supposed to be at recess with her Pre-Kindergarten class at J. J. Pickle Elementary School. About half a mile away from where she was found.

The teacher and an aide were watching the 28 students in the child's class. District officials say the girl wandered away from the playground and was gone for at least 10 minutes.

Austin police officers tell KVUE News school officials never reported the little girl was missing. Austin firefighters responding to an unrelated call on East Saint John's saw her in the road and called it in.

"I'm just glad that nothing worse happened. You know I don't feel like I did a great thing. That's what any man should have done," said Lopez.

Friday, district officials were on campus walking around, inspecting the playground.

The child's teacher was placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation. The class has been split into two, each with one teacher, and one teacher's assistant.

State law does not set a student teacher ratio for Pre-K, but the Texas Education Agency recommends a Pre-K class ration of one teacher for every 22 students.

School officials sent two letters home Friday. One to parents of students in the same class as the little girl and another letter to parents of the rest of the student population.

The letter sent to the child's class said in part:

We know that this incident and the resulting change is unsettling for students and their families, and the district will have a permanent solution in place shortly.

As for what's being done to keep all of the other students safe when they play, district officials say changes could be made after the investigation is complete. 

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