The Douglas Unified School District was informed last week it will be getting two new school buses after the first of the year.
The announcement came after Governor Doug Ducey announced that 55 school districts and charter schools have received approval for the purchase of 142 diesel and alternative fuel school buses, totaling $15.9 million.
“Finding new, innovative opportunities to increase much-needed resources for K-12 will continue to be a major focus of my administration,” Governor Ducey said through a press release issued from his office. “The purchase of these school buses will ensure that schoolchildren will be safely transported to and from school and that schools can leverage these dollars or use cost savings from efficiencies to further update their fleets or for other capital needs.”
Six school districts in Cochise County were awarded buses. Douglas and Willcox Unified will each get two while Ask Creek Elementary, Bowie, Pearce and San Simon each will get one new bus.
DUSD Superintendent Ana Samaniego said this is welcoming news for the district.
“I am very excited and grateful for this opportunity to receive two buses,” she said. I have to say that all the credit goes to our Transportation and Business Office Supervisors, Robert Rodriguez and Sonia Barcelo. They applied for the VW grant a few months ago. They were hoping to be awarded $110,000 which would cover one bus, but this morning Mr. Rodriguez received email confirmation regarding a $200,0000 award, which means the possibility of two buses.”
Samaniego said the VW grant would have any school district who is awarded surrender one bus that is 15 years old or older with at least $100,000 miles in return for the grant money.
“Being that we were awarded enough to purchase two buses, we would have to surrender two older buses,” she said. “I will be meeting with Mr. Rodriguez and Chief Financial and Operations Officer, Mr. Soto to determine what the needs of our district are.”
Samaniego added a few possibilities DUSD could look into doing with the award money would be to purchase one travel bus and one route bus and pay nothing, purchase two travel buses and also pay nothing, or purchase two route buses and pay nothing. With as much traveling our students do for athletics and school trips, a definite priority may be at least one travel bus.
“This is the best news we have received in a long time,” the superintendent said. “Seeking additional funding sources is something I discuss with my leadership team often as it brings extra revenue for little in return. DUSD is grateful to VW for this amazing award.”
In June 2018, Governor Ducey released a $38 million plan to purchase an estimated 280 school buses from settlement funds from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust. The Arizona Lower-Emissions School Bus Program provides funding to 60% free and reduced lunch school districts, charters and the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind to replace aged and high mileage school buses. Public schools with a school bus older than 15 years and over 100,000 miles were eligible for a diesel or alternative fuel replacement bus. During the two-month application period in the early fall, school administrators received four training opportunities, on-demand online training resources and a direct point of contact to receive technical assistance regarding the application process.
To date, the state has received 118 applications from school districts and charter schools, resulting in requests for 362 buses at a cost of $40.4 million. In this first round of awards, 55 completed and verified applications totaling $15.9 million have been approved. These awards represent approximately 47 percent of the total applications submitted. Staff continue to review the remaining applications and work with the applicants to secure additional documentation. A second round of awards is expected to be announced in the near future.
Background on the settlement
In January 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against Volkswagen for violating the Clean Air Act by modifying its vehicles to cheat emissions tests. The suit resulted in a settlement agreement that requires Volkswagen to spend $10 billion to buy back vehicles or compensate vehicle owners and $4.7 billion to offset pollution from the modified cars. Arizona will receive $57 million over the next two years. The plan also includes funding other mission critical projects such as supporting wildland fire crews and equipment for the Arizona Department of Transportation.