Campbell Co, VA (News & Advance) Gus the Bus in Campbell County plans to continue serving students this fall after a successful spring and summer.

Campbell County Public Schools worked with United Way’s Smart Beginnings Central Virginia program to bring Gus the Bus to the county through funding from the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation, the Greater Lynchburg Community Foundation and other community contributions.

Karen Wesley, the executive director of Smart Beginnings Central Virginia, said Gus the Bus generally costs between $5,000 and $8,000, annually to operate. The cost doesn’t cover staffing, which Campbell County Public Schools provides.

Gus the Bus is a mobile classroom dedicated to bridging the gap between homes and schools and providing a classroom setting for children 1 to 5 years old to read, learn and have fun.

Campbell County Public Schools’ Early Childhood Education Coordinator Gerin Martin said Gus the Bus went very well and she was “pleased with all that we’ve done and accomplished.”

On average, about seven to eight children — many younger than the age of 4 — visited the free bus at either the Twin Oaks Mobile Home Park on English Tavern Road in Rustburg or the Locust Gardens Mobile Home Park on Waterlick Road in the Sunburst District, Martin said.

From March to May and during the summer, the bus alternated between the two mobile home parks.

“We had children that were repeat attendees and also children that came to both locations,” Martin said. “[Returning children] means that we were giving them something that they wanted and needed, and that’s what we’re about.”

On top of being at the mobile home parks, Gus the Bus visited Concord Elementary School in Concord twice for pre-kindergarten popsicle play dates, where incoming pre-kindergarten students were invited to go on the bus, have a popsicle and get free books.

Martin said they didn’t keep track of how many children enrolled in pre-kindergarten or kindergarten as a result of participating in Gus the Bus, but 28 children between March and August signed up for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a program that sends children a free book monthly until their 5th birthday.

As the summer session advanced, the organizers helped build a routine on the bus for the children that included time to play in the different centers, clean-up time and large group time when volunteers and children would read stories, sing songs and participate in movement activities. Each day ended with snack time.

Following a routine, learning different skills and building relationships on the bus all help the children prepare for pre-kindergarten or kindergarten, said Kimberly Maddox, quality and transition coordinator for Smart Beginnings Central Virginia.

Maddox said volunteers witnessed students’ growth firsthand.

“The children that hid behind their parents when they were first introduced were by the end of the summer running up and giving us hugs and saying hello,” Maddox said.

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