In many cases, parents were not at bus stops to greet their children and the school systems says parents are partly responsible.
Wake County says its policy is to contact parents in case of an emergency but parents need to make sure they provide all phone numbers and e-mail addresses to the school.
Eyewitness News spoke to parents who say they had supplied that information but did not receive a phone call.
The school district is not apologizing for the incident, and some parents are upset with the district's response.
The notification system calls a parent or emergency contact person's work, home and cell number.
But parents of some Salem Elementary students say that's not what happened Wednesday.
"The only message I got was a broadcast message on my home phone number," one parent, who did not want to be identified, said.
Luckily she was at home to receive the message indicating her 7-year-old was getting out of school early.
Several of the woman's neighbors didn't get the message, but their children were still dropped off at their normal bus stop three hours earlier than usual.
A 5-year-old and an 8-year-old had no way to get into their homes and no parents to watch over them.
"That's completely unacceptable," the parent said. "That was a poor, poor risk decision by Wake County and Salem Elementary."
Luckily, she was able to watch over the children until their parents got home.
School spokesperson Bill Poston said teachers wait with children who normally get picked up at school until their parents arrive.
Poston said administrators did what they normally do. But parents say the situation wasn't normal and the school acted irresponsibly.
"I think that there should be contact made with each and every parent -- there should be voice to voice communication," the parent said.
When asked who is responsible for a 5-year-old being dropped off without their parents knowing, Poston replied, "Well, I think parents need to stay in touch and make sure they know what's going on with their school."
Parents say that is unacceptable on the part of the school. "I think they're trying to shift the blame on the part of the parent and I just don't accept that," the parent said.
Poston finally admitted Wednesday may be an example of things that didn't work right with the notification system. He also said the district is looking into it but reiterated everyone has to assume some responsibility to make the system work.