Local contributions drive mobile school program forward | PostIndependent.com

Local contributions drive mobile school program forward

Alex Zorn

Darwin Arila and Ariasmy Gonzalez build puzzles together during free choice on Gus the Bus.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent |

“Gus the Bus,” one of Garfield County’s signature mobile preschool classrooms, welcomed a special guest on Monday as Garfield County’s Preschool on Wheels program celebrated the new year by honoring one of its biggest supporters.

Natural Soda general manager Kirk Daehling stopped by the bus Monday to see his company’s recent investment firsthand.

With offices based in Rifle, the sodium bicarbonate producer pledged a $10,000 commitment to be a new sponsor of program’s two mobile classrooms: Gus the Bus and The Sunshine Bus

The Aspen Community Foundation launched the Preschool on Wheels program in the fall of 2012 with Gus the Bus. The Sunshine Bus was added in 2013.

Both buses have been repurposed into mobile classrooms, equipped with air conditioning and bathrooms. The program has served 450 children throughout the Garfield School District Re-2 since its inception.

Preschool on Wheels is 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.

Natural Soda’s contribution helped the Preschool on Wheels program reach its local business match goal of $40,000. Kum and Go Convenience Stores, Chevron, Columbine Ford of Rifle and Natural Soda combined to reach that $40,000 mark in 2017, with another $40,000 coming from Rifle, Silt and New Castle businesses.

“Local businesses and individuals contribute around $40,000 each year,” Hood explained. “That money goes a long way into helping pay for gasoline, teacher salaries, parent education and general operating costs.”

“Education is extremely important for the workforce and the next generation,” said Natural Soda Operations General Manager Kirk Daehling. “Half of our employees live around the I-70 corridor and this is such a great program.”

Hood confirmed that some of the employees at the Natural Soda warehouse even have family members that have gone into the Preschool on Wheels Program.

“That community backing is so important,” Hood explained. “It’s support that comes from our neighborhoods and is the community supporting its community. They are able to go back to work and we are able to support them with preschool.”

She said that these are the partnerships that are vital to the organization.

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

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