WESLACO, RGV – Valley Metro has received a brightly colored bus for routes 61 and 62 in Rio Grande City thanks to sponsorship by IDEA Public Schools.

Routes 61 and 62 run east and west along Business 83, taking the downtown retail center, city hall, the Starr County Courthouse, and the campuses of South Texas College and UT-Rio Grande Valley. 

Fernando Salinas, principal of IDEA Rio Grande City Academy and College Prep, said the charter school’s distinctive blue and yellow colors are wrapped around the bus to striking effect. 

“This is an exciting venture for us,” Salinas said. “The bus is gorgeous. It is beautifully striking. I know the people of Rio Grande City are going to be so excited to see it. They will get the IDEA message, College For All.”

Salinas’ family has deep routes in Rio Grande City. His grandfather, also called Fernando, was a school board president and mayor and has a street named after him. 

Salinas studied at Rice University before returning to the Rio Grande Valley. He first taught at Frontier High School in Brownsville and then joined IDEA in Donna. 

“We are always looking to expand our message and expand our reach and having this bus traversing Rio Grande City is going to be a wonderful way to get our message out, so even more parents can see the great opportunities their children can have when they join us at IDEA,” Salinas said.

IDEA’s presence in Rio Grande City started in 2017. The new school has 730 students in Pre-K, Kinder, 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th and 7th grades.

Salinas said he would like to thank Ron Whitlock of the Shepherd Group for coming to him with the idea of sponsoring the bus. “Mr. Whitlock has been a great partner. It is an exciting collaboration,” he said.

Whitlock said he first proposed the idea of sponsoring the bus to Tom Torkelson, co-founder of IDEA Public Schools.

“Tom Torkelson saw the vision, as Fernando did. It has been several months to get to this point but you do not launch something like this until the message is right. It took a lot of time to get it right. This is perfect for IDEA and Valley Metro. After 50 years in the business, I know this will work.

Whitlock praised Robert Rangel of Weslaco for the graphics work.

Tom Logan, director of Valley Metro, also commented on the striking image of the bus.

“It is a beautiful design. It really jumps out at you. Hats off to the designer. It is striking and easy to understand the message,” Logan said. 

Logan called it a win-win for all parties.

“It is a great opportunity for IDEA to spread the word about their schools and for us to spread the word about public transportation in Rio Grande City and Starr County.”

Because of IDEA’s sponsorship, there will be no fares on routes 61 and 62, Logan said.

“This bus is for everyone. It is for the general public, not just students. It has a GPS tracking device, wifi, a bike rack and seats 22 passengers. It is a great service and I want everybody to take advantage of it.”

It might look like a school bus, but it is for anybody that wants to use the service, at no cost. WiFi, GPS, bike rack. Seats 22. 

Valley Metro is administered by the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council and has 76 buses and growing. Logan said that in the new year it will acquire Valley Connect and work more closely with the public transit systems in McAllen, Brownsville and South Padre Island.