Voters have supported Delmar, New York-based Bethlehem Central Schools’ plans to buy up to five electric school buses. The purchase in the 2021-22 school year is contingent upon state grant funding. - Photo courtesy Jo Ellen Gardner

Voters have supported Delmar, New York-based Bethlehem Central Schools’ plans to buy up to five electric school buses. The purchase in the 2021-22 school year is contingent upon state grant funding.

Photo courtesy Jo Ellen Gardner

Voters who live in the area served by Bethlehem Central Schools in Delmar, New York, recently approved propositions that support buying electric school buses.

Two of the three propositions that residents cast votes for on May 18 will support the purchase of up to five electric school buses, according to a news release from the district.

Buying the buses in the 2021-22 school year is contingent upon grant funding from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

The district has announced its intention to transition its school bus fleet to electric buses and is awaiting a funding decision from NYSERDA on New York Truck Voucher Incentive Program funding, Karim Johnson, the district’s director of student transportation, told School Bus Fleet.

Once approved, Johnson said, the district will order the buses and begin to train its drivers and mechanics on electric school bus operation and maintenance, “as we eagerly await their arrival.”

With the voter approval, Bethlehem Central Schools becomes one of the first school districts in New York state to begin the move to a clean energy bus fleet. (White Plains City School District partnered with school bus contractor National Express and local utility provider ConEdison to operate five electric school buses with vehicle-to-grid capability in 2018.)

Here’s the voter approval breakdown, according to the school district:

•             Bus purchase proposition (75% approval).

•             Electric bus infrastructure proposition (76% approval).

•             GPS/telematics (76% approval).

“Our community has spoken overwhelmingly to enhance the safety and health of our students and of our environment by moving forward with school bus electrification,” Johnson said.

“We are so appreciative of this community not only for approving our budget and bus propositions but for its unwavering support of our schools especially this year and last,” said Jody Monroe, the district’s superintendent, in the news release. “We have been living in uncertain times but never once doubted this community’s commitment to education or to the safety and well-being of our students and staff.”

Monroe added that turnout for the annual budget vote was greater than expected given the effects of the pandemic. A total of 2,555 residents voted.

Meanwhile, the district is continuing to explore other available grant funding to enable the purchase of more electric buses for its future fleet replacement cycle, Johnson said.

In addition, Bethlehem Central Schools is developing a flexible charging infrastructure plan to accommodate the electric buses authorized for purchase as well as ongoing electric school bus purchases.

“Depending upon the availability of funding, it is my hope that 100% of our future purchases of Type C buses will be electric,” Johnson said.    

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