Lake Washington School District will add more electric buses

Federal funding allows district to replace some diesel school buses.

Lake Washington School District (LWSD), among 19 other school districts, became one of the first groups to receive funding to replace diesel-run buses with electric models through the Clean School Bus (CSB) Program Grants Competition.

According to press releases from Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, the school districts are set to receive $15 million in federal funding to replace several diesel-run buses. The initiative aims to implement 48 electric buses across 20 school districts.

Out of the 48, LWSD anticipates purchasing two electric buses with the funding received from CSB the program, which Superintendent Dr. Jon Holmen said has been long awaited.

“We have applied for multiple grants to help us bring zero-emission buses to LWSD but have not been selected until now,” Holmen said in a press release. “We are incredibly proud of our team for continuing to find ways to help us fund projects like this in our district.”

According to the press release, buses purchased for LWSD will be used at Frost Elementary and Muir Elementary, both Title 1 schools.

“We anticipate that we will receive these buses within the next two years,” said Shannon Parthemer,

the communications director at LWSD.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which conducts the CSB program, has prioritized these awards to applicants from school districts with low-income, rural or Tribal communities.

The program, initiated in 2022, allows access to the $5 billion funding allocated by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This funding aims to transition from diesel-powered buses to low or zero-emission electric buses nationwide within the next five years, according to the EPA.

The push for electric buses is a product of transportation accounting for the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, according to 2021 EPA data.

Diesel, which most buses run on, includes nitrogen oxides and other toxins that pollute the air, bringing another element into play — the health of students and bus drivers.

“Every day, more than 25 million children and thousands of bus drivers breathe polluted air during their commute to school, which hurts students’ health and academic performance, particularly for students with asthma and other respiratory conditions,” according to Murray’s press release.

Diesel exhaust can also lead to other health implications beyond raspatory.

According to the Washington State Department of Ecology air pollution study, diesel exhaust is responsible for 70% of airborne cancer in Washington.

These emissions also pollute and damage crops, trees, soil, lakes and streams, which enter the human food chain through water, produce, meat and fish, according to the EPA.

Other groups awarded the first round of grants from the CSB program reside in Washington and Oregon.

The Oregon Beaverton School District received funds to purchase 50 buses. The First Student Inc., which provides transportation services to students in both states, received funding to purchase 46 buses.

Since the initiative began, approximately 439 awards have been granted to 642 school districts, with over 5,000 buses to be replaced across the country, according to EPA data. With around $1.8 billion spent, the program has over $3 billion left in funding to switch diesel school buses to electric models.