The Vail Valley Foundation’s new Magic Bus is 10 tons of mobile wonder and learning … and an on-board restroom.
You don’t need a special license to drive the new mobile preschool, but you do need a special heart.
JOURNEY WITH GERALD CONTINUES
Across the front is emblazoned “Journey with Gerald,” and for good reason.
Gerald Gallegos, Bjorn Erik Borgen, Mark Smith and a host of others launched the Magic Bus program in 2002. It’s now a licensed mobile preschool.
The mission was simple: Put books in front of children, especially children who do not have easy access to libraries and books.
Steve and Amy Coyer were Magic Bus volunteers in those early days. Those kids are now in high school.
Buses have come and gone since then. The two they have now have both been driven more the 140,000 miles. They break down with remarkable consistency … 23 days last year. At three classes a day, that’s 2,208 hours of contact time with instructors the kids did not get.
Deb Dutmer drove the first Magic Bus. The new magic bus eliminates at least one logistical hurdle. It has an on-board bathroom. Before this, they had to park close to a public restroom for the kids to strap on their winter gear and toddle to the potty.
The Magic Bus is now geared at kids between 3 and 5 years old, and that age have to toddle to potty a lot, Dutmer said.
Somewhere, Gerald Gallegos is smiling down from heaven.
DOWN VALLEY, UP VALLEY
The new Magic Bus is a rolling preschool that will serve Gypsum, Dotsero and Eagle. They’re raising money to buy a second one for Avon and Edwards and the eastern end of the Eagle River Valley. That second one might be all electric, said Melisa Rewold-Thuon, director of the Vail Valley Foundation’s education programs.
More than half of Eagle County kids do not attend preschool before they head off to kindergarten, even though studies show that 80 percent of a child’s intellect, personality and social skills are developed in the first five years of life, Rewold-Thuon said.
Fully half of the families in the Magic Bus programs earn less than $25,000 a year.