Electric school buses in DeKalb County

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Lawmakers, school leaders and students took a quiet ride into the future outside Stone Mountain Middle School. The new all-electric school bus from Blue Bird hardly made a sound as it pulled out of the parking lot.

“Some of my best memories are on the school bus,” Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia) said. “But let me tell you — the bus I rode this morning was a whole lot quieter and smoother than the buses I rode many years ago.”

On Monday, he joined school leaders, lawmakers and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Michael Regan to announce the latest round of funding for clean school buses.

“Transitioning to clean school buses mean cleaner air, less pollution. It means healthier kids, healthier communities. It means less time away from school and increased focus and increased productivity,” Regan said. “Mark my words. Zero emission school buses can and will be the new American standard.”

The agency is distributing $1 billion across 30 states, including $60 million in Georgia. DeKalb County Schools will get enough funding for about 25 buses, charging stations and infrastructure, according to DeKalb County School District Chief Operating Officer Erick Hofstetter.

“As we go, we will start implementing [the buses] and we’ll start finding the routes that they work on,” he said. “Many of our routes are between that 50 and 100-mile range.”

The district is ordering buses from Blue Bird. The company said it will likely take several years for all 25 buses to be delivered, but the district will see some before then.

“The most important thing right now is obviously safe transportation to schools,” Hofstetter said. “We’ll be able to hear better on a bus so children will be able to hear instructions from bus drivers — and vice versa, the bus driver will be able to hear the children a little bit more and a lot more accurately.”

The district operates about 600 buses a day, according to Hofstetter. About a quarter of those are low-emission vehicles that run off propane. 

“We know respiratory conditions are a huge thing in our overall wellness,” Hofstetter said. “What this does is it continues to allow that opportunity to happen.”

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