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‘A school on wheels’

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The MCPS Dream Bus is the first of its kind, and the concept is becoming widely popular in Kentucky and beyond

By Marlena Stokes Summer Intern

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Mestok14@students.campbellsville.edu

 

You likely have seen it driving around town, or parked at different locations throughout the community. The Marion County Public Schools Dream Bus is a bright and colorful school on wheels, catering to the needs of children all over the county.

The Dream Bus is a school bus that was remodeled by students at the Marion County Area Technology Center, fully equipped with WiFi, a television, air conditioning, music and an outdoor canopy. The outside design of the bus was designed and created by Nukem Graphics of Lebanon, with the inside decorated by the tech center students with bright green and royal blue walls, swivel chairs and pillows, rope lights, and two sets of tables and benches for the kids to eat and do fun activities.

This summer, the bus parked at two stops each weekday, staying for more than an hour. Kids would hop on, eat a full meal prepared by MCPS food service employees, and socialize with the other kids on the bus. Each meal given was free to students 18 and under, and included a sandwich, locally grown vegetables, and a white or chocolate milk.

Two teachers - Cody Farmer, a science teacher from Marion County Middle School, and Josie Lyon, who teaches second and third grade at Glascock Elementary School - also accompanied the Dream Bus, teaching learning lessons and conducting fun activities with the kids. Farmer and Lyon have a clear passion for the kids, and it doesn’t go unnoticed. When the kids board the bus, they run and greet their teachers, excited for their time on the Dream Bus to begin.

But, the Dream Bus didn’t just drive itself all summer. MCPS bus drivers Gayle Bell, Joe Dant and Barney Bishop made sure of that. All three drivers took turns driving the bus this summer, and each loved the experience.

Bell has been driving the Dream Bus since it started around four and a half years ago.

“You got to love it to do it,” Bell said. “It makes my day.”

Bishop explained how he loves to not only drive the bus, but he also enjoys jumping in and interacting with the kids and their activities.

“There’s all kinds of games,” said Bishop, beaming. “It brings joy to me to see kids. It makes you feel good all over.”

Dant spoke of how he not only enjoys the kids, but the fact that the Dream Bus gives the kids something to look forward to during the summer that allows them to come out of the house and interact with others.

“At least they’re not sitting in their house playing on their phone, or watching cartoons all day,” said Dant. “They’re getting out of the house.”

Bell loves the fact that the bus doesn’t just touch the lives of the kids who come on, but the parents and guardians, as well.

“The adults get on and love it as much as the kids,” said Bell.

The kids look forward to the days the bus stops in their neighborhood, and will be there waiting when the Dream Bus pulls in.

“When you drive to places… and the kids are already sitting there waiting for you, looking down the road, you know you’ve already impacted them,” said Dant. “It’s the highlight of their week.”

And no matter the weather, they’re always there. Bell spoke of how she would sometimes doubt the turnout on rainy days.

“You get there, and there’s 10, 15 kids waiting,” said Bell.

All of the drivers spoke very highly of the two teachers that ride to each destination.

“When a kid will get on a bus and [Farmer and Lyon] wrap them up and just love on them, it gets emotional sometimes,” said Bishop.

The teachers remember the kids and welcome them in as their own.

“They’ll talk with them and love on them,” said Dant. “It’s just amazing.”

“It’s stuff like that, it just melts your heart,” said Bell.

The MCPS Dream Bus is the first of its kind, and the concept is becoming widely popular in Kentucky and beyond. Teachers and administrators from all over Kentucky and several other states have come to the bus stop locations to grasp the idea and make their own versions.

“This idea has spurred a lot of the same things in other districts,” Dant said.

Dant also came up with an idea on how to make sure unused perishables from the meals don’t go to waste, and it’s something the drivers are extremely proud of. The Caring Place is a center for abused women and children in Lebanon. Any perishables from the Dream Bus that will go to waste are delivered to the shelter, and are greatly appreciated.

“If we have food that’s perishable and won’t be used the next day, we take it to them instead of throwing it in the trash,” said Dant. “That’s one thing that I’m very proud that we do.”

“It doesn’t matter if it is three sandwiches or 20,” said Bell, assuring that no amount goes unnoticed.

This summer, the Dream Bus also incorporated a fun prize drawing for the students that participated throughout the summer. Each time a student boarded the bus, they were able to enter their name in a drawing to win one of the five Amazon Kindles given out the last week of the program. This past week was the last week, and each day, a name was drawn and a student was awarded with a Kindle.

Smiles were contagious on the Dream Bus, with every person being impacted in a positive way.

“The kids get so excited,” said Bishop. “When they get off, they’ve got a smile on their face. It’s wonderful. I’ve never seen a child leave dissatisfied.”