The district was facing a shortage of drivers, resulting in delays for students like his son. So, he decided to step up.
A bus driver shortage at the Poway Unified School District in San Diego, California, is a huge problem. They revealed their need for drivers within the community and a man named Rick Daynes was quick to step up. Daynes' children attend school in the district, including his youngest, 10-year-old son Eli, who has autism and Down syndrome. Due to the bus driver shortage, there were many days his son got home as late as over an hour, reports KGTV.
The father of five and author of "Keep It Together Man" already has a full-time job but he figured he could squeeze in the hours between 6 am and 9 am to drop kids off at school. "It was never on my list of things to do, but it just fell in place," Daynes said. "I'm not looking back."
Daynes quickly realized it took a lot more to be a school bus driver, per TODAY. They had to enroll in training courses to drive standard 40-foot school buses (a longer version of the vehicles that often transport students with disabilities) and in first-aid and CPR classes. He was even tested by the California Department of Education, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Motor Vehicles and the California Highway Patrol. It took him back to his teenage years when he had to take the driving test with an instructor, triggering his anxiety.
"I thought, 'Holy cow this is so much more to this than I thought,'" he admitted. "I felt overwhelmed a lot." Two and half months later he managed to get through his tests. "I didn't know if I would be driving Eli," he said. When a driver on Eli's route bid on an alternative schedule, the dad was ready to give his son a surprise. "I was so nervous the night before," shared Daynes. "It was like Christmas morning."
"It just fell in place," Rick Daynes said. "And I'm not looking back." https://t.co/NjhnM9WYGU— ABC News (@ABC) June 18, 2023
On May 3, Daynes' first day on the job, Eli was shocked to see his dad pick him up and quickly embraced his dad as he scooped him up in his arms. "Hi, Daddy!" he beamed enthusiastically. "My wife told him, 'Daddy is driving the bus!' and he was so excited, he started flapping his hands. We'd sing or each kid chose the music — they usually liked the soundtracks from Frozen, The Little Mermaid or Moana," he added of the bus rides with the other kids too. “I want parents to know that while I may not be able to completely relate to your situation, I will treat your kid as my own and talk and sing along the way.”
It looks like Daynes got so good at the job he was hired by the Poway Unified School District as a permanent bus driver for the fall. "We need at least an additional 50 drivers to meet the student demand and eliminate our waitlists," a district spokesperson said. "We have had some amazing people step forward — retired pilots, real estate agents, former truck drivers. Instead of waiting around or complaining, he did something about it," the spokesperson said of Daynes. "The surprise element was icing on the cake ... seeing Eli’s reaction made us tear up!"