Preschool on Wheels powered by the sun | PostIndependent.com

Preschool on Wheels powered by the sun

In this January 2018 file photo, Darwin Arila and Ariasmy Gonzalez build puzzles together during free choice on Gus the Bus.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent file

After celebrating its sixth year in the community this summer, Gus the Bus – Preschool on Wheels program is driving to the future in style as the mobile preschool is now equipped with solar panels.

Preschool on Wheels Manager Logan Hood said the panels have already saved the program hundreds of hours in generator life in 2018, as the energy produced helps fuel the needs of the classroom, including lights, music, heat and more.

The bus is now equipped with six 1680-watt solar panels, a 7,200-watt inverter system and a battery bank with 400 AM-hours, installed by Carbondale-based company Sunsense, according to the press release from the Aspen Community Foundation and other organizations involved.

Funded through Xcel Energy’s Renewable Energy Trust, the $25,000 renewable energy grant helped pay for the equipment and installation as the panels were added to the roof earlier in the fall.

“A partnership with Xcel Energy will help decrease our environmental impact, save fuel, reduce sound pollution inside the classroom and eliminate the contaminated air that students, teachers and parents often breath,” Hood said. “Using the most innovative technologies available, our goal with this project was not only to address environmental impacts; it will strive to enhance public awareness of renewable energy in our community,”

The bus offers two classes per day and is equipped with air conditioning, heating, lighting, internet, sound system, and a bathroom with sink to sustain a safe and healthy learning environment. To meet these demands, heavy diesel generators were used to support the classrooms four days per week, nine months a year, Hood said.

She said the solar investment will help extend the life of the bus.

The Preschool on Wheels program was launched in fall of 2012 as a partnership between Aspen Community Foundation and Garfield School District Re-2 to address the immediate need for preschool access and kindergarten readiness in the region.

Students attend class on one of two buses, Gus the Bus and the Sunshine Bus as it remains the first mobile preschool to be licensed by the state of Colorado. It’s part of ACF’s Cradle to Career Initiative to assure the kindergarten, college and career readiness of the region’s 22,000 children and to address the fact that two out of three children in Rifle, Silt and New Castle did not have access to quality preschool education.

Hood said the goal is to show the value the solar panels provide to Gus the Bus and look for a similar investment for the Sunshine Bus.

“We would love, by the end of the school year, to prove our case and ask if another investment could be made to the Sunshine Bus,” she added.

The Preschool on Wheels Program serves over 120 kids per year, and there is already a wait list. So, parents with a child who will be 3 by October of next year should look to sign up as soon as possible. Those interested in enrolling or who would like more information can call Logan Hood at 970-925-9300, or visit the Aspen Community Foundation website at http://www.aspencommunityfoundation.org.

azorn@citizentelegram.com