When the Knox County R-1 School District in Missouri replaced a diesel bus with one powered by electricity, it chose the road not traveled and repurposed the vehicle as a café designed, built and run by students.

The electric bus was bought with grant money provided by the Volkswagen emissions fraud settlement.

“The whole idea behind the VW money is you’re improving air quality, so you have to promise to destroy the bus and take that diesel off the road,” says Andy Turgeon, superintendent of the Edina-based school system. “In years past, we might have said, ‘Well, we’ll just take it to the scrap yard.’”

Andy says the bus café “was the perfect answer” for teachers looking for real-world, hands-on experiences for their students. 

“The business teacher had been asking me for three years to cut a hole in the classroom’s concrete wall so her students could have a store and simulate business situations.”

Two more electric buses are headed to Knox County schools this spring. Just as they did with the café, students and teachers will transform the old diesel vehicles.

“There are some ideas floating around,” Andy says, including an outdoor classroom and a tiny home. “We’ll see what they come up with.”