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Would You Buy a Bus?

by Tobi Voigt, Detroit Historical Society on

I happened to see this article from 89.3 KPCC – Southern California Public Radio pop up in my Facebook feed last week and I can’t stop thinking about it. Perhaps you saw it, too?

Long Beach museum looks to buck trend of declining student field trips

Which museum is it and what are they doing?  Well, according the the article:

“Around 2009 and 2010, the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach began seeing declines in its field trip numbers. When Stuart Ashman, the museum’s president and CEO, came on board in 2011, he brought with him an idea to address the problem: why not purchase a school bus and drive kids to the museum themselves?”

I had two simultaneous and conflicting thoughts when I heard about this. First, I was “Whaaaa? That’s an amazingly innovative idea!” and the second was, “Ooh, I bet it costs a TON to operate every year. I wonder if/how its sustainable.”

The article went on to answer my questions:

“To get the vehicle up and running, officials endured 22 months of fits and starts, navigating a maze of information on what was needed to get the bus ready for its first school field trip. … By the time all was done, the bus went through two paint jobs, a letter of appeal to the governor, drivers’ training and licensing, and four separate visits from California Highway Patrol inspectors.”

Not to mention a total price tag of $48,995. That includes the start-up costs ($33,800 for the bus and repainting) as well as ongoing expenses, which include $12,000 a year in insurance, $3,000 in driver training and licensing, and about $200 in fuel and staff costs for one 45-mile round trip.

Even knowing the numbers – and with many questions about its funding and sustainability – I still think this is an exciting example of a museum coming up with a creative solution to a problem we all face. I will be excited to see their attendance and expenses data after one school year.

What do you think? Is your museum doing anything innovative to bring schools into your museum?

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