NOVATO, Calif. (KGO) -- A nationwide school bus driver shortage has put a damper on a North Bay elementary school's plans multiple times. But thanks to some community generosity, the fourth graders at Olive Elementary School in Novato were granted a much-needed surprise Tuesday morning.
Parents and those who work at the school say their students have been disappointed twice in the past when the school bus that was supposed to take students to field trips went to the wrong school or didn't show up at all.
"It has been disappointing and brutal and it has been hard," school office manager Carla Brouillette said, who organizes field trips for students. She says she had been trying to find a school bus and driver to take the kids to the SF MOMA for over a month, and had no luck.
When parent of two, Anne-Marie Costa found out, the news hit her hard. The SF MOMA visit was supposed to be the first field trip for the fourth grade class in three years. Costa decided to spring into action, reaching out to ABC7 News for help.
"I was crying. I was at work and shaking and crying mostly, because I didn't want another disappointment for these kids," Costa said. "I'm a really passionate person and parent and community member, and when it comes to vulnerable seniors and children and animals, I'll be the first in line to help."
After making some calls, Gary Bauer, owner of Bauer Transportation, stepped up to help. He has a personal reason for wanting to get involved, and donate a bus and driver for the school's Thursday trip.
"I was actually born and raised in Novato, went to school there - it's a great place. I have an 8-year-old myself and at the end of the day, I know how important these off sites and field trips are for these kids," Bauer said. He says for more than thirty years, he has never dealt with school busses, primarily charter busses and other modes of transportation. But when the pandemic hit and school bus routes were cut, his team added school busses to their offered services and started paying for training.
"It's a tough market out there, companies are stretched thin and we wanted to do what we can to put smiles on their faces," he said.
So just two days before their once scheduled field trip to the SF MOMA, more than 60 students were ushered outside right before lunch where a big yellow Bauer bus was waiting.
"Yay!" cheered the kids, as ABC7 News anchor Dion Lim bounded out of the bus, adorned with giant ABC7 News balloons and announced the field trip was back on.
"I look forward to going on the bus - it's fun talking with your friends on the bus!" beamed Anne Marie's daughter, Flora Costa.
Classmate Koa McCarthy turned 10 on Tuesday and couldn't have asked for a better birthday surprise. "This is my first field trip in three years so I'm just so excited !" he smiled.
"I just want to say, thank you because this is really big for us, we've never had anything like this before and it's really exciting," student Skylar Rogers said, who also is looking forward to being together with her classmates.
Bauer's Intelligent Transportation is hiring school bus drivers right now and will pay for special training. Those interested can apply here.
A special thank you to the Party City location in San Rafael for filling up the ABC7 News balloons Tuesday morning, despite a nationwide helium shortage as well!
If you're on the ABC7 News app, click here to watch live