WEST NYACK, N.Y. — Last week, the Rockland Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) put into service two wheelchair-accessible hybrid school buses from Collins Bus Corp.

The buses were purchased by Rockland BOCES through a New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) award funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Clean Cities program. They are the first wheelchair-accessible hybrid school buses in the U.S. to be put into school district service, according to Rockland BOCES.

Rockland BOCES competed with other school districts, municipalities and state colleges and universities to fund its Clean Fleets Project, which is expected to yield savings of 40 percent in fuel, 30 percent in maintenance and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent when compared with traditional school buses.

The NYSERDA grant covered the difference in cost between a hybrid bus and a standard school bus, which enabled Rockland BOCES to purchase the two hybrids for the cost of a single vehicle.

“This exciting day has been a long time coming,” Rockland BOCES Transportation Supervisor William Popkave said. “The NYSERDA grant helped Rockland BOCES double its investment in a clean fleet.”

Popkave submitted Rockland BOCES’ grant proposal in January and received award notification in May.

As it pulled in front of a school to discharge students, one of the buses was hailed by Rockland BOCES District Superintendent Dr. Mary Jean Marsico, board members, local elected officials, and representatives from Collins Bus Corp. and dealer Factory Direct Bus Sales. Once all students had entered the school, the delegation was briefed on the hybrid buses and invited on board for a vehicle tour.

“These new buses are part of a broader vision to innovate how Rockland BOCES does business. We’re integrating green technology campus-wide for everything from powering our facilities to training students for 21st century careers,” Marsico said.

The buses will transport students for the remainder of Rockland BOCES’ summer school program and begin service for the 2011-12 school year on Sept. 7.

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