Liberty, New York-based Sullivan BOCES, a supervisory district serving eight component school districts in Sullivan County, is using a converted school bus as a mobile classroom to provide internet access for students in need.
The district partnered with New York State Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, school transportation company Rolling V Bus Corp., and nonprofit organization Sullivan 180 to create the remote-learning environment for all students in Sullivan County, according to a news release from Sullivan BOCES. School districts in the county can reserve use of the mobile classroom on their remote instruction days through Sullivan BOCES’s communications department, according to the district.
Development of the concept began when the group discussed the need for remote learning options after the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools in the spring of 2020, according to the district. The project came to fruition when Assemblywoman Gunther obtained $7,000 for the initiative and Rolling V Bus Corp. repurposed a school bus. Seats in the bus were either removed or rotated to create separate workstations and/or desks for students, and electric and internet access was installed.
“The partnership among my office, Rolling V Bus Corp., Sullivan 180, and Sullivan BOCES has been a fantastic example of how we can work together to provide innovative and vital services to the students of Sullivan County,” Assemblywoman Gunther said in the news release. “Thanks to the mobile classroom, students throughout the county will be able to access high-speed internet to help them learn remotely as we make our way through the pandemic.”
In Sullivan County, most students and teachers use Google Classroom, which requires consistent, reliable internet access, according to Sullivan County BOCES. However, some students in rural communities lacked online access to their classrooms due to no broadband, poor connections, or insufficient hotspots, while other students were unable travel to where internet access was available.
“At Rolling V, we’re fully invested in our students and could not sit by and let the COVID-19 pandemic impair their opportunities to learn,” Phil Vallone, the company’s CEO said in the release. “This bus will provide an educational haven for students who may have nowhere else to turn to gain online access to their classes and studies.”
Robert M. Dufour, the district superintendent and CEO at Sullivan BOCES, added that the project builds upon the district’s “mission to support learning opportunities within our community,” and that “students and staff from our career and technical education welding and construction programs were instrumental in conceptualizing and creating the workstations for the mobile learning environment.”
Rolling V and Sullivan BOCES plan on continuing the mobile classroom program for schools and community organizations like Sullivan 180, the Center for Workforce Development, Cornell Cooperative Extension, Sullivan Allies Leading Together (SALT), and Sullivan Renaissance. Other options include job fairs, education tours, showcasing of community programs, and other considerations that would benefit the community, according to the district.
Liberty Central School District is the first district within Sullivan County to pilot the mobile classroom, according to Augustine E. Tornatore, the district’s superintendent.
“This bus brings us a step closer to leveling the playing field,” Tornatore said in the news release. “The pandemic has exposed many inequities faced by students throughout New York, and Liberty is no exception. I know our students will benefit greatly, and I thank everyone who helped to make it happen.”