A first-of-its kind vehicle will be hitting the streets this autumn in Colorado as an all-new, all-electric, ‘Magic Bus’ Mobile Preschool will serve to put early-childhood education on wheels. The Magic Bus is a program of the Vail Valley Foundation’s YouthPower365, and is a Winnebago Industries Specialty Vehicle – the first all-electric mobile preschool in the world.
The all-electric bus will join its gas-powered counterpart so that two buses will make the rounds through neighborhoods in Eagle County Colorado, four days a week beginning Oct. 5, 2020. Classes are an hour-and-a-half long and are free of charge, helping ensure that critical childhood learning is available to as many children and families in the community as possible.
“The children and families served by the Magic Bus need to be kindergarten-ready even considering the current crisis,” says YouthPower365 PwrUp Senior Manager Kendra Cowles. “The Magic Bus plays a critical role in preparing them to successfully transition to school.”
The Vail Valley Foundation’s Magic Bus is based on Winnebago Industries’ standard J33SE zero-emission commercial vehicle, utilizing Motiv Power Systems’ all-electric EPIC Ford F-53 chassis. Summit Bodyworks was responsible for the vehicle upfit. Significant road testing has been conducted on the vehicle that houses six batteries and delivers up to 100 miles on a full charge. The Magic Bus is expected to see up to 85% operation and maintenance cost savings.
“We are pleased to see our all-electric vehicle platform being used to provide early childcare programs for Eagle County’s low-income families. The all-electric vehicle will enable operation in a quiet, emission-free manner,” said Robert Kim, Director of the Winnebago Industries Specialty Vehicle Division.
When the Magic Bus rolls into a neighborhood, children climb aboard for a day of learning, growth, education and emotional support from teachers who have become integral parts of the local community. Through songs, read-alouds, exercise games and vocabulary-building activities in Spanish and English, the children gain essential preparation for the big step into kindergarten.
“Most parents walk their student to the bus for a quick check-in to see how the family and child are doing, share tidbits about class instruction or their specific child’s progress,” Cowles says. “The bus is customized to operate as a center-based preschool classroom, complete with dramatic play and kitchen areas, building blocks and plenty of dinosaurs.”
In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, YouthPower365 worked closely with Eagle County Public Health to develop new protocols including the creation of a sanitary environment, utilizing social distancing, masks, frequent hand washing, and many other techniques.
Another positive change is, of course, the new Bus’ light carbon footprint.
“Motiv’s mission is to free fleets from fossil fuels, so it’s encouraging to see community outreach merge with emission-free transportation to provide education to families who are unable to access brick and mortar facilities,” said Matt O’Leary, Motiv Chairman and CEO. “Equal education and clean air are two of the most important things we can provide to the next generation, and we are proud to play a part in the Vail Valley Magic School Bus project.”