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Wheels on the classroom bus may be going 'round and 'round in Squamish

Learning Disabilities Society launches a mobile classroom that could help Sea to Sky students.

A mobile classroom built especially for kids with learning differences could be rolling into Squamish this fall. 

The Vancouver-based nonprofit  Learning Disabilities Society (LDS) has launched a mobile classroom that provides specialized support for children and youth in their communities.

If there is enough interest from local parents, the LDS Access bus will come to Squamish in the fall to provide parent workshops, one-to-one learning sessions, and more in Squamish. 

The organization says the mobile classroom is the first of its kind in Canada. 

The outside of the electric minibus is wrapped in a bright and inclusive original mural by award-winning artist Carson Ting

“Our new LDS Access initiative furthers our commitment to provide accessible and inclusive support to all children and youth in our region with diverse abilities and to transform their lives through learning,” said Jennifer Fane, Director of Education at LDS, in a news release. “Our mobile classroom service will ensure that students with access challenges can receive our one-to-one instruction from our highly skilled instructors and support from our comprehensive LDS assistive technology suite in locations close to where they live.”

COVID-19 protocols are in place, and maintaining airflow has been considered in the construction of the bus. 

LDS board chair Greg Sullivan told The Chief that the organization already works with students in Squamish in online classes, but the mobile classroom may allow more kids to get help. 

There are three work centres inside the bus, which also has a socially-assisted robot onboard, that LDS is working with the University of Waterloo. 

"We are now able to meet the kids where they are. A lot of kids, especially during COVID... the barriers have just gotten bigger for a lot of families," said Sullivan. "Transportation is a big issue." 

LDS has two brick-and-mortar centres in the Lower Mainland and is in six schools, but not all families can commute. 

There is a fee for the service, but they are on a sliding scale. 

"We financially make this accessible to everybody," Sullivan said. 

“We are trying to break down all those barriers — social barriers, transportation barriers, financial barriers." 

Helping kids improve at school and broaden their understanding builds confidence, he added. 

"Especially for kids in Grades, 3, 4, 5, 6, getting that self-esteem, getting that confidence back it just allows them to excel. A lot of these kids are above average intelligence and it is just wonderful to see how they respond to this kind of one-to-one support." 

With enough interest, the minibus would come up and park in Squamish for half a day or so and meet with local students. 

If the mobile classroom is as successful as LDS staff expect it to be, they aim to add more buses to the fleet to serve more students. 

"We will get this launched and hopefully, in the not too distant future, think of expanding that service," he said. 

Find out more on the LDS website. 

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