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‘TAKING THE CLASSROOM on THE ROAD’

Fredericksburg schools' Super Cat bus is ready to hit the streets

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One evening during the height of the pandemic, when schools were closed, Fredericksburg City Public Schools superintendent Marci Catlett was sitting at home when a school bus pulled up in her street.

School division staff members piled out “like a SWAT team,” Catlett said, to distribute packets of assignments, activities, supplies and small gifts to the students who lived on her street.

That operation was one of many that stuck with Catlett and inspired her dream for the city school system to have its own permanent community engagement bus—a dream that came true this month when the division unveiled the Super Cat Bus.

The Super Cat Bus will be the new home for school division outreach programs, such the Fredericksburg Alliance for Student Achievement’s annual spring SOL kickoff event, which brings food and SOL study materials to the neighborhoods of Bragg Hill, Hazel Hill and Heritage Park.

Catlett said that previously, members of FASA would carry test prep materials in the trunks of their cars for the event.

In addition to special events, the plan is for the Super Cat Bus to go out into city neighborhoods on a regular basis, “taking the classroom on the road,” Catlett said.

The bus has been outfitted with WiFi and a big screen TV, and will carry information about the school division for parents and reading, resource and math packets for students.

Making the Super Cat Bus a reality was a collaboration between school staff, students and the Fredericksburg Host Lions Club, which donated over $30,000 to the project.

Catlett said she shared her idea for the bus with local club president Shirley Eye, a former teacher and principal, last year.

“Serving youth is one of the focus areas of the Lions Club organization and education is seen as a key component of this effort,” said local Lions Club spokesperson Grant Gates. “With the FHLC’s commitment to the city of Fredericksburg, this was a prime opportunity to work with the public school system to help the school children of this community.”

The local club’s board of directors donated $10,000 to the project this year and raised an additional $28,000 through grants from the Lions of Virginia Foundation and the Lions Clubs International Foundation.

The club plans to use the Super Cat Bus to conduct its free vision screenings for area children, Catlett said.

Brian Kiernan, food services director for the school division—following the same process he uses for his mobile feeding truck program—purchased a used 2004 school bus to transform into the Super Cat Bus and worked with the schools’ IT director, Mike George, to design the interior.

Students in J. Andrew Ewing’s carpentry class at James Monroe High School completed the demolition of the bus’s interior and Hamilton Works Inc., a local company that specializes in vehicle conversions, did the interior build-out, ensuring that the Super Cat Bus would be fully handicap-accessible.

FCPS held a division-wide contest in 2020, inviting students to create a logo for the bus. A panel selected one winner from grades K–5 and one from grades 6–12.

Ken Crampton, cafeteria manager at Walker–Grant Middle School, designed the wrap for the bus, incorporating the winning student designs, and another local company, Illusions Wraps, installed it.

The name of the bus is a nickname City Council member Charlie Frye came up with for Catlett, who taught him in sixth grade, when she became division superintendent.

It’s a combination of the words “superintendent” and “Catlett.”

Delia Clayton–Fulcher, student support specialist at Walker–Grant Middle School, has also been instrumental in bringing the Super Cat Bus to life, Catlett said.

She will be in charge of working with each division school to put together a schedule for the bus to visit city neighborhoods.

Expect to see the Super Cat Bus out in the city this fall.

Adele Uphaus–Conner:

540/735-1973

auphaus@freelancestar.com

@flsadele

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