Midland Public Schools considering electric school buses

Midland Public Schools Superintendent Michael Sharrow told the Daily News that the district has considered adding electric-powered buses to its current fleet of gas and diesel buses.

“We are still exploring that,” he said, noting that the district’s transportation center is nearly prepared for electric buses. “We’re upping the capacity of that (electric capability) just in case we do end up with an electric fleet somewhere down the road.”

A broad coalition of advanced mobility, school transportation, health and environmental experts laid out multiple opportunities on June 22 at a webinar to discuss the possible transition that schools can make from gas-fueled school buses to electric school buses. One of the upcoming avenues for school districts to explore are applications for federal assistance, which are due by Aug. 19.

There are 297 school districts that are prioritized for funding in Michigan under the EPA’s Clean School Bus Program. Districts that are not on the priority list can still apply, as long as they are either a state or local government entity, eligible contractor, nonprofit school transportation association, or tribal entity.

While MPS awaits funding assistance eligibility, Sharrow said some staff members are reviewing the Series 3 portion of a 2015 bond that helped with technology and bussing. He said staffing abilities and charging capabilities are also being reviewed.

Next spring, Sharrow said the district will consider an order relating to purchasing buses. He said electric, propane and other possibilities will be reviewed before the next purchase.

“For years, we all went to diesel, but our last bus purchase was for gas engines, which is hard to believe, but gas became pretty efficient,” Sharrow said.

Coalition: Michigan kids deserve a clean commute to school with electric school buses

Currently, only 17 electric school buses operate in seven school districts across the state. The coalition asks Michigan lawmakers and school districts to embrace upcoming opportunities to provide kids with a cleaner commute, including:

  • Supporting the Council on Future Mobility and Electrification’s request for $45 million in the state budget for a feasibility study and pilot program, combining schools that amount with growing state revenues to help transition to cleaner buses.
  • Helping Michigan school districts apply for funding through the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus Program, which in 2022 alone, is poised to offer $500 million in funding to school districts for the purchase of electric and other clean fuel buses.
  • Passing House Bill 5721 and Senate Bill 859 that would allow greater access to sinking funds for school districts to purchase electric school buses and the charging infrastructure to support them.

“Michigan policymakers should seize this opportunity to provide a clean commute for our schoolchildren,” said Katrina Morris, executive director of the Michigan Association for Pupil Transportation.

The coalition advocates for the health of children across Michigan and jobs to be created through the initiative.

“Transit and school bus fleets have long been underfunded and are one of the most promising opportunities for investing in vehicles that create community-wide benefits,” said Jane McCurry, executive director of Clean Fuels Michigan. “This includes economic benefits, like creating more jobs for the advanced manufacturing sector.”

A coalition of experts estimates that gas-powered school buses travel approximately 900,000 miles daily in the United States.

Midland Public Schools is working on hiring transportation drivers for the upcoming school year. For more information on the staffing opportunity, visit the district’s website.

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