LEE’S SUMMIT, Mo. — In a 10-year lease-purchase agreement, Lee’s Summit R-7 School District will replace its diesel fleet with 149 Thomas Built school buses powered by compressed natural gas (CNG).
Officials touted the move as the nation’s largest school bus transition to CNG and said that it will reduce fuel costs while benefitting students and the environment. The district’s program also includes a shift toward CNG-powered facility maintenance trucks and continued use of all-electric delivery trucks.
Lee’s Summit R-7 officials said that a portion of the estimated $11 million in overall savings from the 10-year initiative will be used to purchase technology infrastructure and equipment that will benefit all Lee’s Summit schools and facilities.
"We are making changes within our district that will benefit students for years and years," Superintendent Dr. David McGehee said. "With the conversion to environmentally friendly school buses and district vehicles, we are able to use the savings generated in this area to purchase much-needed technology infrastructure and equipment that will provide students with access to increased technological resources."
The overall lease-purchase plan is being funded through district savings, redirected resources and capital funds along with state, federal and business partnerships and grants.
Lee’s Summit R-7 will convert the following vehicles to CNG over the next few years: 149 buses, a refrigerator truck used for food delivery and about 46 vehicles used by facility maintenance and custodial employees. For the 2013-14 school year, 106 CNG-powered buses are being delivered; the remainder will be delivered over the next five years.
Along with Thomas Built Buses, the district’s partners for the project include CNG supplier Clean Energy and school bus distributor Midwest Bus Sales.
Savings from the vehicle transition will fund a district-wide technology upgrade. Officials said that improved and updated infrastructure will provide students and staff with a robust, reliable and secure network, including switches, wireless access points and server upgrades.
Long-term fuel and maintenance savings are estimated at approximately $11 million, with outside resources for the initiative totaling close to $3.5 million.
The initiative includes construction of a CNG filling station near Lee's Summit R-7’s transportation department. The facility will serve district vehicles while providing the community with a public CNG filling station. The district will receive a royalty on retail CNG sales.
As part of the lease-purchase initiative, Lee's Summit R-7 purchased 1.5 acres next to its current transportation department and facilities department buildings.