EPA, local officials discuss impact of electric school buses on SC school districts

Three Lowcountry school districts received grants as part of the Environments Protection Agency’s Clean Electric School Bus Program.
Published: Nov. 1, 2022 at 10:32 AM EDT|Updated: Nov. 1, 2022 at 6:37 PM EDT
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ORANGEBURG, S.C. (WCSC) - Three Lowcountry school districts received grants as part of the Environments Protection Agency’s Clean Electric School Bus Program.

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-South Carolina) and State Superintendent Molly Spearman was joined by Orangeburg County Schools Superintendent Dr. Shawn Foster and representatives from the EPA to discuss the impacts of those grants on Tuesday.

“This gives these bus drivers here you see sitting on the front row a device and a tool, a classroom of theirs, that they can be proud of,” Foster said. “To say not only do we value what you do, we’re going to put something behind it and give you the resources where you can have a smooth ride because even though they’re driving, they’re riding on this bus too.”

Nearly 400 school districts across the country were awarded close to $1 billion for buses powered by propane, electricity or compressed natural gas. South Carolina’s share of that figure totaled $58 million, which ranks third behind California and New York.

The Orangeburg County School District and the Georgetown County School District each received $6.32 million in grants after both districts requested 16 electric school buses each. Dorchester School District Four received $3.16 million after a request for eight electric school buses.

Foster said 75% of the district’s 11,000 students depend on a school bus, traveling about 1.3 million miles yearly.

“With the addition of these buses, less than 10% of our total bus fleet will be older than 9 years,” Foster said.

Inside of the school bus, it’s like any other school bus with rows of bench seating that can seat over 70 children, but all the similarities end there.

The EPA said the 16 electric buses awarded to Orangeburg will remove 6,000 tons of carbon dioxide over the buses’ lifespan.

“We’re also excited to know that children in the city will enjoy a pollution-free ride to and from school while school districts will have an annual fuel saving cost of at least 25,000 gallons of diesel,” EPA Regional Administrator Daniel Blackman said.

State Superintendent Molly Spearman believes the new buses could be an inspiration for students.

“We hope students that you’ll think about and ask questions about, ‘How does it work? Why are we doing it? How far can we take this?’” Spearman said.

The State Department of Education said for the 148 buses, they would need to install at least 60 charging stations across the state to accommodate them.

They also said they hope to start seeing the school buses funded by the grant on the road in the next eight to 10 months.