En route to a maintenance facility at Richmond Public Schools early Wednesday morning, Judy Deichman received a call. She soon learned that a two-alarm fire had damaged a few RPS buses damaged beyond repair, including the “Lit Limo”.
Two summers ago, Deichman, the educational library media specialist at RPS, launched the Mobile Library Bus, initially aimed at addressing student learning loss during the summer months. But once RPS announced that the 2020-2021 school year would be virtual, the Lit Limo remained in service, driving children every day.
The bus is “very personal. That’s actually what got me through the pandemic because I got to see kids five days a week and give them books, so it was kind of like a godsend,” Deichman said in a post. interview Thursday. Deichman hosted a similar program in a former school district.
People also read…
The bus offers new books for children of all ages. Children keep books which include picture books, chapter books, bilingual books and books for middle and high school students. Popular requests include graphic novels, the “Nate the Great” series, and the “Magic Tree House” series.
“When they start asking for a particular book, that love [for reading] is starting to get favored,” Deichman said.
The newly renovated Lit Limo began its summer schedule just two days before the fire in a repair and maintenance warehouse at 1903 Chamberlayne Avenue, a facility the school division has leased for nearly 25 years.
The Lit Limo will continue its summer schedule with the old bus, Deichman said.
At least four school buses and two vehicles inside the facility and one bus outside the garage were damaged beyond repair in the blaze around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, according to firefighters.
The school system originally leased the facility in February 1997. The school board unanimously approved a one-year lease extension in May. TRP Chamberlayne, LLC., owner of the facility, agreed to the one-year extension with RPS for approximately $113,000, a 4% increase over the prior year.
A May 2014 RPS Transportation Audit conducted by the City Auditor’s Office recommended that the division stop leasing the Chamberlayne Avenue site, in order to save money.
In 2004, the division purchased property at 3501 Belt Blvd. for $1.1 million to convert it into a repair and maintenance facility.
Last month, the RPS administration recommended that the school board approve the one-year lease extension so that the division would have more time to “identify a suitable replacement location,” according to the May presentation.
The Twitter account Bed Limo confirmed the fate of the new bus on Thursday afternoon: “Yes, it’s sad but true that the new Lit Limo was on fire yesterday! We are going to regroup and hope to have a wheelchair accessible and air conditioned bus soon!! »
Renovations to a new Lit Limo began in October, but after the money ran out, work stalled until recently when the WRIC stepped in on its annual Founders Day. Donations were received from the Division Education Association and the public. On June 17, employees of WRIC, the subsidiary of Richmond ABC TV, worked on the new bus and installed new flooring, cabinets and counters.
On Wednesday, Deichman was on his way to the facility to go over the final details of the new bus, including a donated public address system for the bus. The new bus was also equipped with a wheelchair lift and air conditioning.
A Richmond Public Schools spokesperson did not respond to a list of questions until press time on Thursday.
At around 11 a.m. Thursday, in response to questions, a spokesperson for Richmond Fire and Emergency Services said the investigation was ongoing.