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High school district in lottery for free electric buses

Rick Monroe

Special to the Village News

Superintendent Ilsa Garza-Gonzalez has initiated paperwork to enter a lottery for seven free electric buses — 25% of its fleet — for the Fallbrook Union High School District. Trustees heard a report at the Aug. 8 board meeting from Kevin Mathews of First Student Transportation Services, a company contracted by the district to coordinate services.

Mathews explained that the EPA has received $500 million in federal funding this year for “electrification” of school bus fleets. Thousands of districts across the U.S. are interested in getting the free replacement buses and a lottery will determine which districts will receive the awards, Matthews explained.

The rebate program opened on May 20, Mathews said, and the deadline for applicants is Aug. 19. EPA will review applicants in September and applicants will be notified in October. Garza-Gonzalez turned in the paperwork through First Student and the board will receive more information if it is one of the lottery winners.

Fallbrook is among 7,600 districts that meet the qualifications of being in a high need school district of low-income areas (20% or more students living in poverty), as well as being a rural school district and tribal school district.

Based on the district’s fleet of 29 buses it would be eligible to be awarded six Type A buses ($285,000 each) and one Type D bus ($375,000).

Mathews said First Student would also work with the district in options for EV-charging infrastructure with SDG&E on its “make ready” programs. He added that the goal is to replace buses older than 2011 models.

He said $5 billion has been dedicated to the EPA for zero-emission and clean school buses through 2026. That includes the $500 million for 2022. There have been 91 electric buses deployed and $10 million in grants awarded to date.

Mathews noted that advantages of electric buses are not only savings on fuel and maintenance, but that they also reduce noise pollution protect the environment. He said one electric bus reduces health costs by $150,000 per year.

Mathews said First Student represents 1,100 school districts and has 42,500 vehicles in 460 operating locations in 37 states and 7 Canadian provinces. The company accounts for 5 million student journeys a day and is the world’s largest school transportation provider.

 

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