Van Buren police and school officials had a happy ending on the first day of classes Wednesday after finding a missing child during an almost hourlong search.
Five-year-old Dakota Collins decided to skip kindergarten at Parkview Elementary School and go directly to first grade, authorities said.
It seems Collins made a friend on the playground and followed the friend into a classroom at Parkview Elementary School. He put on a name tag of another boy who was absent from the class. The teacher did not realize he wasn’t who he said he was, Staggs said.
Van Buren Police were notified just before 9 a.m. after school officials notified police officer Rick Patterson, who is assigned to the schools as a school resource officer, said Van Buren Lt. Stephen Staggs.
Collins’ kindergarten teacher noticed he was missing during roll call. Teachers had seen him earlier during breakfast and on the playground prior to school starting.
Several area law enforcement agencies including the Crawford County Sheriff’s Office, Alma Police Department and the Arkansas State Police joined Van Buren police in a search for the boy.
The child’s parents, James and Candi Collins, and several extended family members arrived at the school to answer questions from police about the boy. Several family members also helped search the school grounds for the boy, Staggs said.
“They were pretty emotional,” Staggs said about the boy’s parents.
Authorities printed a still image of Collins from a surveillance camera at the school during the search. They also sent out messages via A Child Is Missing and the State Police was about to put out a Morgan Nick Alert when Collins was found.
As police went from classroom to classroom showing the boy’s photo, the first-grade teacher told authorities that she had a boy in her class who looked just like the picture, Staggs said.
When a police officer and the teacher walked up to the child to ask him about his identity, he started crying, authorities said.
“He just wanted to be in the class with his friend,” Stagg said.