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School district saves incredible sum after making one big change to its buses: 'We took a plunge'

The buses, which can transport up to 78 students each, will be charged with charging stations and solar carports.

Modesto City Schools, Big change to its buses

Photo Credit: Modesto City Schools

Getting to school will be a little greener for students at Modesto City Schools this year, thanks to the district's 30 new electric school buses. The fleet is worth $14 million and will allow the district to become one of the first to replace half of its bus fleet with electric vehicles with a single purchase.

The buses are both environmentally and economically friendly. Tim Zearley, the district's associate superintendent of business services, told CBS News the switch would save the school district $250,000 in fuel costs annually.

The buses, which can transport up to 78 students each, will be charged with charging stations and solar carports — shelters for EVs with solar panels installed on the top. Because the school district is providing power for the buses, the new fleet won't put a strain on the city's grid, either. "[By] providing the necessary power … we are actually supporting the local electric grid," Zearley said.

California is no stranger to the effects of the climate crisis, as heat waves, wildfires, and rising sea levels all threaten the state. "We do see the effects here in Central California of changes in the climate," Zearley said. "[H]opefully what we are doing will be … our part here in Stanislaus County and Modesto to address those issues."

The purchase of the buses was achieved through state grants and partnerships with local energy companies and embodies Modesto City Schools' mission to educate students about the importance of sustainability. "Our sustainable projects are designed to address climate change, reduce air pollution, and lead the next generation of students in learning about a sustainable lifestyle," Zearley said.

More and more schools are making the switch to electric school buses. Though the upfront costs are high, electric buses save schools money in the long run, as they reduce spending on gas. Additionally, the Biden administration is giving hundreds of millions of dollars to make these buses more affordable for schools. 

It's a win-win: Schools save money and keep harmful pollution out of the air. 

"Now's the time," Zearley said. "In 2035 there is legislation that diesel school buses will no longer be allowed on the roads. We took a plunge and decided to order the 30 EV school buses." 

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