Alachua County Public Schools (ACPS) located south of Jacksonville, Florida, decided to give back to the organizations that have supported it throughout the pandemic.
In previous years, ACPS would auction off its surplus vehicles at a local auctioneer in either Jacksonville or Ocala. The auction isn’t a yearly occurrence, as it depends on how many new school buses the district purchases and the age of the remaining school buses in the fleet.
Typically, ACPS would make about $1,000 per auctioned bus, Director of Transportation Reginald Thomas told School Transportation News. This year, however, Thomas said his district purchased 80 new school buses with money set aside from the district’s school board, and through a lease-purchase from Thomas Built Buses. He said instead of selling the older school buses, district officials opted to donate them.
Despite receiving a small return on the sold buses, he said, administration officials said donating the buses would be a better service for the community this year. Many of these organizations are district partners and had especially supported the district during COVID-19 closures by helping to feed students and providing tutoring.
Thomas said 40 of the district’s oldest school buses were donated as part of the event, which was called “Operation Moving Forward” and held in the Gainesville Raceway parking lot.
Thomas explained that ACPS set up an application process and received almost 175 applicants.
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Thomas along with ACPS Superintendent Karen Clarke and Assistant Superintendent for Operations Paul White placed all the applicant names in a hat and hand-picked the 40 winners.
Thomas said the donated school buses were then put on display and the non-profit organizations selected could inspect them out and decide which ones they wanted prior to the actual event.
On Oct. 28, the 40 names went back into a jar and were pulled out in the order the organizations could pick their buses. Thomas said a wide variety of organizations attended from throughout the county, including local churches, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and organizations that support both young men and women.
“We had so many organizations we were providing some services to, to get kids to and from tutoring,” Thomas said, adding that now the organizations will be able to transport the kids themselves. “Some of our churches here in our district are able to tutor our kids after school, so they all have that ability to take those children home [now]. And then I know that so many organizations do things over the weekend with kids, they’ll be able to take those kids on camping trips so that’s very exciting for us.”
He added that this event made a positive impact on Alachua’s community and shows that the district is interested in supporting it in any way they can, as many of the organizations have been feeling a financial strain caused by the new novel coronavirus.
“A lot of the organizations, especially on the day that we were giving out the buses,” Thomas said. “They were so excited. So we gave them out Wednesday [Oct 28] and Thursday [Oct. 29], and Friday as I was driving to a different location I had already seen one of the school buses on the road taking [children] on a trip so, so I was excited to see that they were already making use of that bus.”