HomeGreen BusGreen Ribbon Schools Profile: Moreno Valley Unified School District

Green Ribbon Schools Profile: Moreno Valley Unified School District

School Transportation News is highlighting U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools winners in celebration of Earth Day. Moreno Valley Unified School District (MVUSD) in California won the award last year and continues to focus on a mixed transportation fleet.

MVUSD was recognized with the Green Ribbon Schools award last year for adopting an environmental education policy. The award referred to the transportation department’s focus on transiting its fleet of diesel buses to electric and responsible fuels, including 42 electric, 28 CNG and 31 propane buses at the time.

“For me personally, it was the recognition of what has been accomplished in support of our students and community,” said Jim Burleson, executive director of transportation. “Sure, there are savings and operational benefits as a result of our move to electric-powered school buses, but it’s the beneficial long-term health and well-being of our students, community and school bus drivers that make this such a rewarding effort. It is exciting to serve a district that is committed to sustainability and provides leadership the opportunity to present creative ideas and the support necessary to make it happen. I feel the Green Ribbon Award highlights our district’s commitment to our students and community while inspiring us to do more.”


Related: National Green Ribbon Schools Focus on Sustainability, Environmental Impacts
Related: Green Ribbon Schools Profile: Albemarle County Public Schools
Related: Green Ribbons Schools Profile: Bellingham Public Schools


To date, Burleson said MVUSD has replaced all diesel-powered school buses with electric for a total of 46 EVs. The second phase of the electric adoption will address the aging buses that run on CNG and propane.

“There have been many benefits experienced since receiving our electric buses,” he said. “The obvious benefit of the drastic reduction in daily emissions, but most surprisingly the daily utilization we have enjoyed. We still operate at above 95 percent utilization on both the school buses and chargers.”

He noted that prior to receiving the electric buses, transportation administration was concerned with reliability and possible downtime. “Our partnerships have proven to be good decisions,” he said. “When there have been challenges, we had timely responses and good communication throughout our transition. In addition, the quiet ride has proven to be beneficial for our autistic students being transported. The reduced noise and smooth ride have reduced student anxiety by providing a more relaxing ride to and from school.”

There are benefits to running a mixed fleet, he said. For instance, their CNG buses allow MVUSD to continue its in-house support of long-distance athletic and academic trips.

“This was important as we wanted to ensure our transition to electric school buses would benefit our students and improve our transportation service and support,” he said.

The district plans on purchasing electric buses with a 310kW battery pack that the manufacturer claims will provide a range of 210 miles.

The 2024 Green Ribbon Schools honorees were announced at the end of April. A total of 55 schools, districts and postsecondary education agencies were awarded, including Modesto City Schools in California, home of 2022 Rising Star Gilbert Rosas. View the highlights of those awarded.

“We completed a comprehensive field trip analysis that showed over 95 percent of our field trips could be completed in buses with the new 310kW battery packs,” Burleson said. “The new emission requirements will have an impact on 5 percent of our student transportation requests. These will now need to be supported utilizing outside vendor services. I am confident that over the next few years, we will continue to see improvements in electric bus range, and this will help ease our long-distance trip challenges.”

Burleson advised districts adopting alternative fuels/energy school buses to plan ahead, such as by reorganizing the parking lot so electric school buses are as close as possible to the incoming power supply. He added that the entire transportation team should be involved in the bus selection process to affect a smooth transition. He stressed the importance of keeping everyone — mechanics, trainers, dispatchers and bus drivers — in the loop and involved.


Related: Extended: Nominate a Green Bus Fleet for National Recognition at STN EXPO
Related: EPA Announces Latest Grant Program Prioritizing Electric School Buses
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Plus, he said, it’s important to give school bus drivers ample time to familiarize themselves with the new vehicles. This includes allowing them to drive the new buses around town to help reduce the driver’s stress levels with the new technology. It also gives them time to appreciate the benefits.

“Choose your equipment carefully, take time to speak with other district transportation leaders about their experiences with the equipment they selected, ask pros and cons,” he continued. “As with any bus purchase, this will be a 15-to-20-year relationship with the manufacturer selected. Be diligent and ask questions. Be sure that the school buses and chargers you are considering work well together and ask for site contacts with working examples to ask questions and verify operational viability. Know your current daily route mileage and select proper bus battery size and chargers that will allow for optimal overnight charging cycles.”

MVUSD transportation will continue to prioritize operational efficiencies and develop best practices as they continue their transition toward electric buses. Burleson said considerations will include tires, scheduled charging strategies, data management, driver training, planning for battery replacement, effective routing schedule, and continuous training opportunities for mechanics.

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