Berea Community Schools in partnership with Berea Kids Eat has created a unique opportunity for children in the area — a multipurpose bus.

The idea for the bus began back in 2019 when Matt Woods, Berea Community Schools transportation director, had a life-changing experience involving a hungry child.

“I’d seen firsthand how a child being hungry can affect behavior or ability to learn. I’d seen the huge need in our community for our kids to be fed even during times when school is out,” Woods said in a news release.

Diane Hatchett, Berea Community Schools superintendent, soon set up a meeting between Berea Community Schools and Berea Kids Eat, a local program that offers both summer and after-school meals to youth in the area. Together, the idea slowly became reality when bus No. 29 was retired from school usage. It was still in good shape, so Woods and his team began preparing the bus for repurposing.

Funding was secured by Emily Reed, the director of academics at Berea Community Schools, through the Appalachian Impact fund, according to the release. The money from this fund was used to redesign the bus by New Horizon Graphic, a studio in Somerset. The back doors of the bus include the incorporation of drawings that Berea Community High School students created.

The bus was unveiled Monday in front of the school. The vehicle is painted from top to bottom, back to front, with insignia representing Berea Community Schools’ mascot: the pirate. For now, the bus remains empty inside — with most seats completely cleared from the vehicle.

The hope is to turn the bus into more than just a food-delivery vehicle; it will become a multipurpose mobile classroom. Hatchett stated she hopes for the bus to not only have wifi capabilities and enrichment resources for students, but also options for health services and food delivery.

“This mobile classroom will allow us to go into our neighborhoods and serve students and families in ways we’ve never been able to do before. Our goal is to work with community partners to provide balanced meals, but also offer health screenings on site, academic support, exposure to the arts, access to technology and so much more,” Reed said in the release.

According to Hatchett, the bus will be used year-round once it is completely finished. On Monday, the bus was taken down the typical food delivery route for students and families to see the finished paint job.

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