The Eagle Express is ready to roll.
Eden Prairie Schools (EPS) Community Education has launched a mobile classroom to help connect with local families who may otherwise face barriers to accessing important programming.
The Eagle Express is a converted yellow school bus that the district already owned, retrofitted to offer flexible learning spaces inside and out. The bus is stocked with educational materials and more to use in various community outreach initiatives.
“We are hoping to serve more of our community members with a broader variety of programming through the bus,” said Molly Malone, director of adult and community engagement programs at EPS Community Education.
“We want to serve people who have barriers to accessing our programming on-site, or people who maybe aren’t familiar with us,” she added.
Some examples of planned offerings include help with student enrollment and program registration, youth programming, and free enrichment courses.
Malone said a major goal for this summer is to provide assistance with registration for families who might have language, technology, or literacy barriers.
“Really being with people, and sitting down side by side to help enroll them, is something we’re hoping to do a lot of,” she said.
Among the Eagle Express’ many amenities are Wi-Fi, flat screen televisions that can be rotated for viewing indoors or outside, and technology charging stations. It also has flexible indoor and outdoor seating and work spaces that can be adjusted for adults or children, for different sized groups, and for a variety of activities.
Other features include a sink with running water, awnings, a service window, a full refrigerator and freezer for food distribution, air conditioning and heat, supply storage, plus lighting and sound both inside and outside the bus.
“It’s a very unique project,” Malone said. “It’s very flexible and intended to meet a wide variety of needs, and be utilized by a wide variety of programs.”
The refitting of the bus is being paid for by the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, a federal initiative intended to address and alleviate the impacts the COVID-19 pandemic has had on elementary and secondary schools.
Although the bus transformation and some programming is being covered by ESSER dollars, that funding will be ending soon. Eden Prairie Schools district funding and grants will help pay for ongoing programming and services, Malone said.
“We are definitely trying to be thoughtful about the sustainability of it. The intent with a capital investment like this is that it serves our community long term,” she added.
How to check out the Eagle Express
The bus made the rounds of Eden Prairie elementary schools on July 12 for a mobile book collection event. In addition to visiting school-owned spaces, the Eagle Express will be rolled out at city events where visitors can tour the bus and learn about EPS Community Education programming.
Here’s a listing of upcoming Eagle Express outings:
Sunday, July 30: The PeopleFest! Party at Staring Lake Park, 3 to 7 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 3: PeopleFest! Author Reading with Habso Mohamud & People Shapes Kids Craft, Salsa del Soul at Staring Lake Amphitheatre.
Tuesday, Aug. 8: Pop-up Splash Pad at Edenvale Park, 5 to 7 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 27: Community Education Back-to-School Party at Fat Pants Brewing, 5 to 7 p.m.
The Eagle Express will also visit neighborhoods throughout the summer to deliver various enrichment and outreach programs and services. Malone said they are working with the city to use the Eagle Express to expand existing outreach classes at some of Eden Prairie’s apartment complexes, especially Section 42 housing where residents have higher financial need.
“The whole idea is that we meet people where they’re at and we tailor programming to the needs and wants of our community,” Malone said. “We’re really excited about bringing people together.”
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