It’s no big deal for public school students to ride the school bus, but for students at Annunciation Catholic School in Havelock, a ride on their school’s new bus was monumental.
“It was fun. Everybody was screaming. It was fun to watch the cars and sit by all my friends,” said fourth-grader Madison Jackson.
The school took delivery of a 1989 Chevrolet bus purchased from Craven County Schools that will be used for next school year.
“It was really fun going on the bus going around the parking lot,” fourth-grader Dustin Gray said of the bus. “We were screaming McDonald’s because we were hungry. I think the bus is cool and I look forward to going on field trips with it. It was fun because I got to sit next to two of my best friends.”
Father Greg Spencer led students in a blessing of the bus with the Lord’s Prayer and three Hail Marys, and then took the whole student body around the parking lot for what was a first-time experience for many.
“It was kind of loud because it was the gears going,” fourth-grader Avery Merideth said. “It was hot in there and I really wanted to go to McDonald’s because I was so hungry.”
Principal Susan Parks said the bus would have many uses.
“Many of our families have a problem with transportation so being able to provide them transportation will allow us to bring students from Morehead City and New Bern as needed,” Parks said. “Our athletic director will be driving the bus for sporting events. The church will be using it for the youth group activities, so it should really expand our base a lot.”
Parks said planning for purchase of the bus began three years ago. The bus was painted blue and white to match the school colors, and lettering is to be added later.
“This year we expanded our extracurricular sporting clubs to include soccer, cross country, golf, basketball and volleyball,” Parks said. “Also our enrollment has increased 30 percent since last year, so we saw a need for bus service.”
Enrollment has expanded to upwards of 135 in the kindergarten through eighth grade at the private school in Havelock.
“I’m sure we’re going to get a whole lot of use out of it,” bus driver Jon Covert said. “In the past we’ve had to get parents with vans, and this is much safer. Everybody who drives the bus will be licensed just like the public school.
“This bus is going to be fantastic. We’ll be using it to go to places like the aquarium and to do things that we just wouldn’t otherwise be able to do.”
Spencer said the bus gives the school flexibility.
“We’ve not had any way of transportation besides paying a chauffeur to go somewhere, and now we’ll have the freedom to do that so it will bring some opportunities to our school, and it’s safer,” he said. “It’s an automatic and it’s easy to drive.”
Athletic director Ron Thomas, a bus driver, said the bus would help with field trips and away athletic contests.
“We’re excited to have the bus because as we know in Eastern North Carolina, you do some traveling to different sports contests,” he said. “When we play soccer, we go to play Goldsboro. We play a team in Rocky Mount. There’s a lot of people carpooling and trying to get to these different events, so be able to put the kids on a bus and take them to various events is really convenient for the parents and it makes it a lot easier to schedule these out of town games.”
Parks watched as the students took their ride in the bus.
“They want to go to McDonalds,” she said. “Do you think we should take a field trip to McDonalds? You know what? It’s under consideration.”