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The latest news from every corner of the state, including policy emerging from Missouri's capitol.

Charleston Continues To Discuss Grant Budgeting For New Eco-Friendly School Buses

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Last Monday, Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency announced the winners of two eco-friendly school bus rebate opportunities.

The two rebates, the 2021 American Rescue Plan Electric School Bus Rebates, and the 2021 Diesel Emissions Reduction Act School Bus Rebates award funding for school districts in underserved communities to replace old diesel buses with new, new electric, diesel, gasoline, propane, or compressed natural gas school buses meeting current emission standards.

Replacing the buses will help to improve air quality in and around schools and communities.

The Charleston R-1 School District of Charleston, in southeastern Missouri, was one of 11 school districts to receive school bus rebate opportunities from both the ARP and DERA programs.

The district was granted $900,000 in electric school bus rebate opportunities through the ARP program. The Missouri district also received $60,000 from the DERA school rebate opportunity, providing them with three additional bus replacements.

The grants were discussed at the district's board meeting on Thursday.

Jeremy Sibert, Superintendent of the Charleston R-1 School District said at the meeting the board discussed grant transportation opportunities, potentially working with Ameren Missouri to better understand electric elements, and finalized plans for a future April meeting to break down the budget.

Siebert says if the school receives both grants, 6 new school buses will be replaced. If just one of either grants are received, the school will still be awarded 3 new buses.

The school must commit to a May deadline to receive the funding. The board plans to finalize their decisions at the April board meeting.

Siebert explained geants like these will help kickstart the beginning of the electric transportation implementation that is beginning in smaller communities across the country.

“Some people will say that they think that within 10 years, they know it's gonna be 90% electric bus fleets out there, and I don't know if that's actually gonna happen or not, it's probably headed that direction at some point,” said Siebert. “So it's one of those things you have to weigh the costs versus how long you think is going to be before we completely transition to that and just decide if it's something that our district can handle at this point.”

Siebert explains that the grants ability to help the region ties back to the principles of the education system’s mission.

“I think it's always a good thing anytime you can help the environment or help communities, that's what we're in education for,” said Seibert.

Seibert says alongside the environmental benefits, an addition of extra buses will greatly improve the function of the institution.

“With any small school your budgets are always in restraints, so anytime you can get money to help with your fleet or anything school related is a big thing,” said Seibert. “We actually bought three gently used buses last year and were able to improve our fleet a little bit. “So anytime you can get some money towards helping improve the transportation department, or any part of your school I think you’ve got to get a hard look at that, because budgets are always tough even when that stimulus money is coming in.”

The board will continue to discuss the grant money and how it will be budgeted towards new school buses at their April meeting.

Daria Lawson is a 2021 Graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication, with a Minor in Music.