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April 30, 2003 1 min read
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Rolling Along

Three- and 4-year-olds in remote areas of Burke County, N. C., don’t have to miss out on learning just because they don’t live close to one of the Burke district’s school-based pre-K programs.

For more than two years, BUST’R and BETSIE—two school buses that have been converted into preschool classrooms—have been delivering a preschool experience to roughly 120 children twice a week.

The buses, each staffed with a certified teacher and an assistant, travel to 13 sites—mostly mobile- home communities and church parking lots—to meet the pupils. The classes last for about 90 minutes.

On BUST’R, which stands for Building Upon Strengths Through Reading, children work on early-literacy skills. On BETSIE—or Bringing Everyone Technological Success in Education—the youngsters spend part of their time working on six laptop computers. The teachers rotate their routes each month, so the students can learn on both mobile classrooms.

And, apparently, children are benefiting once they start kindergarten from the time they spent aboard the buses.

This school year’s standardized-test results show that of the district’s kindergartners, students who had attended the bus-based program scored significantly higher on language skills and motor and concept skills than did students who did not attend any type of preschool before kindergarten.

The 14,600-student district, located in the western part of the state, collaborated with the Burke County Partnership for Children, a nonprofit organization that administers Smart Start funding from the state, to pull together public and private money to begin the bus program.

Since the beginning of the “Rolling with Pre-K” project, more than 400 children have been served.

Now, the buses are gaining notice outside North Carolina. The innovative program was honored earlier this month as the grand-prize winner of American School Board Journal‘s Magna Awards. A publication of the Alexandria, Va.-based National School Boards Association, the magazine began the awards in 1995 to honor creative steps to improve educational services.

The program will receive a $2,500 scholarship from the magazine and Sodexho School Services of Gaithersburg, Md.

—Linda Jacobson


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