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New School Year Begins with New School Bus Priorities

The beginning of this year’s school year looks different than any other year due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. While millions of students aren’t jumping on their school buses to head to school classrooms, the school transportation system continues to focus on safety first, while shifting its priorities to reflect the new meaning of the school bus.

Right now, the primary goal of the school transportation industry is to protect the health of students and employees against the coronavirus. That means school districts across the country are using coronavirus task forces to share insights and tactics about technology, supplies and programs the districts need to educate students during the pandemic.

To further assist in the effort, top school bus association representatives formed the Student Transportation Aligned for Return to School (STARTS) Task Force to share resources that can be used in the design and development of school opening plans. Education begins with transportation — and using the right tools, including data and strategies, will help prepare districts and protect students and employees.

Another way school districts are prioritizing safety is by investing in their school buses while their fleets aren’t as busy. Some managers are taking the time to get maintenance work completed, including some work that often gets pushed back due to the day-to-day demands of running the school bus routes. For others, that means replacing or purchasing new school buses with healthier, safer buses fueled by propane autogas.

Certainly, with COVID-19 being a respiratory pandemic here in our nation, now is the best time to be looking at zero-emissions options for New Hampshire.

– Jessica Wilcox, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services

Recently, New Hampshire’s Manchester Transit Authority, which operates the school buses for the Manchester School District, acquired 14 propane school buses.

“We’ve got time now to be looking at how to put something together to move New Hampshire forward in this capacity.” Jessica Wilcox of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services told New Hampshire Public Radio. “Certainly, with COVID-19 being a respiratory pandemic here in our nation, now is the best time to be looking at zero-emissions options for New Hampshire.”

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Propane buses are proving popular all across the United States. Livonia Public Schools in Michigan recently added 22 propane school buses to its fleet.

In Montana, Frontier Elementary School converted its one-bus fleet to propane. The new buses will reduce emissions compared to conventional fuels and are proven to create a safer and cleaner environment for students, drivers and their communities.

In Tennessee, Washington County used a “Reducing Diesel Emission for a Healthier Tennessee” rebate program to purchase five new propane buses. The local mayor said the propane buses are “good for the students, good for the community and good for the environment.”

The county commissioner agreed the propane buses would “improve the health and well-being of our students.”

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There is no doubt this year will be historic and unlike any other that the school bus industry has faced. The ultimate goal every industry professional has is to get students back to school safely. As each facet of the school transportation system adjusts and shifts its priorities to meet the daily demands, remember there are experts and resources to support you, including STARTS and ROUSH CleanTech.

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