Southwestern School Board Test Rides Electric Bus

Southwestern Central School Board members were briefed by Superintendent Maureen Donahue on the upcoming implementation of the state-mandated change in busing requirements and planned property improvements. P-J photo by Christopher Blakeslee

Southwestern Central School Board members were given a demonstrative tour of an electric school bus and were updated on the district’s compliance regarding New York’s mandate on zero-emission school buses.

During a demonstrational ride, several riders commented, “It’s so quiet” and “It’s nice not to see a ton of exhausted billowing out the back even during winter months.”

State regulations adopted in 2022 mandate that school buses purchased by 2027 be zero-emission, with the entire fleet transitioning to zero emission by 2035. In 2022, voters across the state overwhelmingly voted for the Clean Air, Clean Water and Green Jobs Environmental Bond Act that includes $500 million to support the transition to zero-emission school buses.

However, as school systems statewide start to make the required transformation to an all-electric, zero-emission bussing system, some who reside in the Southern Tier have questions about the feasibility and repercussions of this zero-emissions mandate.

“I’ve seen it discussed before, but not a lot of talk is happening about the hiring of skilled-technician or the enormous price-point difference in replacement parts this mandate carries with it,” said A.D. Simkor, a resident of Lakewood and small business owner. “I mean when a battery goes in one of these buses it’s not like you can go to Walmart and pick up a $125 replacement. These batteries go anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000 plus, per battery. Also, what about when our kids go on school trips, what happens if the battery starts to run low? Are they just going to pull over for an hour and half or so to fill up? What about in two or three years from now, will the technology be outdated, and will require another upgraded or new vehicle altogether?”

Some school districts are taking note of some of Simkor’s points and are undertaking proactive efforts for the statewide transition. Frewsburg Superintendent Shelly O’Boyle recommended that the board needed to establish a transportation reserve fund for future costs related to electric buses, so no costs will be put into a school budget.

In other news:

Southwestern Superintendent Maureen Donahue briefed the school board members on upcoming projects.

“I always say once a project is completed, then it’s on to the next one,” she said. “We’ve got several projects that will need to be addressed soon. If you look around, our sidewalks need repairs, our tennis courts will need to be fully replaced soon and this list goes on and on.”


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