Orangeburg County School District receives $6.32 million for electric school buses

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Published: Nov. 1, 2022 at 11:02 PM EDT
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ORANGEBURG, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina’s school bus fleet will soon get a fuel-efficient and environmentally-friendly makeover thanks to nearly $60 million in federal funding.

The money, which is part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus Program, will help deliver a total of 148 electric school buses and charging stations to 16 districts statewide.

The South Carolina Department of Education, along with House Majority Whip Representative Jim Clyburn and representatives from the EPA, detailed the impacts of the move in Orangeburg on Tuesday.

The $58 million in grant money South Carolina will be receiving is the third-most of any state in the nation, behind only California and New York.

“A lot of times I smile when I hear people look over at me and refer to ‘little old South Carolina,’” Clyburn said. “We’re way above our weight and size.”

According to EPA Regional Administrator Daniel Blackman, these electric buses will have a “tremendous impact” on South Carolina for generations to come.

Blackman said the buses will improve air quality in and around schools and communities, reduce greenhouse gas pollution and better protect students’ health.

Additionally, the EPA estimates that through these efforts, school districts will have annual fuel savings of at least 25,000 gallons of diesel.

This equates to a reduction of 6,000 tons of carbon monoxide throughout each bus’s lifespan.

The Orangeburg County School District will be receiving $6.32 million, and 16 buses.

The grants prioritized rural, lower-income districts like this one.

More than 40 percent of the funds will be distributed among schools in the state’s Sixth Congressional District, represented by Clyburn.

“That is because so much of the Sixth Congressional District is in fact rural, and the needs are there,” Clyburn said. “When this grant was written, this grant was written to target resources into communities of need.”

According to Orangeburg County School District Superintendent Dr. Shawn Foster, 75 percent of the district’s 11,000 students take the bus to school each day.

However, almost 20 percent of its current buses are more than 12 years old, near the end of their lifespan.

State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said aging buses have been a problem statewide for years, often breaking down, and sometimes catching on fire.

“When I took office in 2015 eight years ago, we were sort of the laughing stock of the nation because of our old bus fleet.”

Spearman said the state now has one of the country’s most modern bus fleets.

Foster said this investment shows that Orangeburg, and its students, are a priority.

“To see everyone putting their hands together for the benefit of our students, it has to warm your heart as a superintendent to know they matter, and that we’re willing to make that commitment, not just in effort, but also financially,” he said.

Working with electric cooperatives around the state, the Department of Education hopes to have the infrastructure in place for charging stations in the next eight to ten months.

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