Alachua County (Fla.) Public Schools Superintendent Karen Clarke decided to offer the district’s 40 retiring buses to local community groups in efforts to help them during the COVID-19 pandemic. - Photo courtesy Alachua County Public Schools

Alachua County (Fla.) Public Schools Superintendent Karen Clarke decided to offer the district’s 40 retiring buses to local community groups in efforts to help them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo courtesy Alachua County Public Schools

Gainesville, Fla.-based Alachua County Public Schools donated 40 of its school buses to local churches, nonprofits, and governmental entities as part of a new initiative to repurpose the district’s retiring buses.

The new initiative, called “Operation Moving Forward,” came about after the district purchased a total of 80 new school buses this past year, according to a news release posted from Alachua County Public Schools. Typically, the district would auction off its surplus buses, but this year the district’s Superintendent, Karen Clarke, decided to offer the retiring buses to community groups instead.

“We know this pandemic is hurting many churches and nonprofits,” Clarke said in the news release. “Like us, they are in the business of serving the people of Alachua County, and we want to help them do that.”

Alachua County Public Schools received a total of 150 eligible applications for its bus giveaway, and 40 of those were selected through a random drawing, Jackie Johnson, the district’s director of communications and community initiatives, told School Bus Fleet.

The selected organizations, according to Johnson, were invited to inspect the buses prior to the giveaway event, which was held on Oct. 28 at Gainesville Raceway. During the event, the buses were distributed by a random draw, and there was a limit of one bus per organization, Johnson said. All of the buses were reportedly in working order and had been maintained on a monthly basis. The organizations who received the buses would be required to pay for a new vehicle tag and the state title transfer through the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles.

“People were so grateful and so happy about receiving the buses,” Johnson told SBF. “Even the organizations who submitted an application but didn’t receive a bus still expressed how grateful they were for us hosting the event. Clearly the need for the buses was there and this was definitely the right time to do it.”

While Alachua County Public Schools hopes to continue Operation Moving Forward, Johnson said it will depend on how many aging buses the district will have in the coming years. The district currently has a total of 180 buses in its fleet, including the 80 new buses.

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