AUSTIN, Texas — Michaela Weeks, 7, just has to walk outside her front door in Hutto to get to school during the coronavirus pandemic. Once a week she steps onto a bus parked outside her house.

The Hutto school district every week sends one of its buses to 20 special education students, including Weeks, to make sure they get a one-on-one lesson with a teacher.

One recent morning, Weeks sat at a table on the bus with her teacher, Lou Quinlan, with both wearing masks. Quinlan read the 7-year-old a story and then asked her questions to see what she could remember about it.

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“What is the name of the owner’s cat?” asked Quinlan, who is the lead assessor for the district’s special education program. “I think it’s Sally,” Michaela said. “Close, but it’s Susan,” Quinlan said.

Michaela has trouble with reading comprehension and also with blending words and sounds, Quinlan said. The girl had more luck with another question that Quinlan asked.

“What is the opposite of hot?” Quinlan asked. “Cold,” said Michaela, smiling.

After the lesson, Michaela said she liked getting on the bus. “I get toys,” she said, laughing. The students receive a small stuffed animal for every other lesson on the bus.

The Hutto school district decided to start sending the bus, which it calls the “Magic Bus,” to the homes of special education students in September, said Stacie Koerth, the district’s special education director.

“I noticed that certain students in the virtual setting were having a very hard time,” Koerth said. “It is called the Magic Bus because it was a witty name and provides magic for our kiddos who cannot be in schools due to health issues.”

The district has 1,228 special education students. The Magic Bus serves 17 students once a week with room for three more students to meet one-on-one with a teacher, Koerth said.

Each lesson on the bus lasts about 45 minutes.

Michaela’s mother, Aunchelle Weeks, said her daughter is doing much better in school now that she gets a lesson once a week on the bus.

“She goes in there and has the teacher’s undivided attention,” said Aunchelle Weeks. “She’s not feeling rushed by another student and it’s amazing what a huge difference it’s making.”

Michaela, a student at Nadine Johnson Elementary School, does the rest of her classes online, her mother said.

The girl used to struggle just to read one word before she started her classes on the Magic Bus, said Aunchelle Weeks.

“She just read a complete sentence all on her own this morning with some words I know she’s never seen before, she said. “I’m so excited.”

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