Schools spend more in order to get air-conditioned buses
After moving ahead with plans to air condition nine Head Start buses back in July, the St. Charles Parish School Board has also decided to purchase seven new air-conditioned buses at a cost of $554,780.
Without air conditioning, those seven buses would have cost $500,780. The board has allocated $500,000 annually for new buses, with the money coming from a one-cent sales tax approved in 2002.
The decision to air condition some buses, and take the temperature lowering device into account when purchasing new buses, was made during the summer after the on-board temperatures of the buses were taken during May of this year using handheld infrared thermometers.
Temperatures inside the buses reached as high as 92 degrees.
When representatives from the transportation department told school board members that air conditioning the entire fleet was not possible in time for the upcoming school year, the board decided to add air conditioning to nine Head Start buses and look into purchasing air-conditioned buses whenever they go out for bids to add to their fleet.
The cost of retrofitting each Head Start bus was around $11,800. That cost includes not only adding air conditioning, but tinting windows and installing new equipment, such as a third evaporator that would minimize the heat coming off the road through the bus floor.
As for the new buses, six of them will hold 66 passengers and will have diesel engines. Diesel buses get between nine to 11 miles per gallon as opposed to the three miles per gallon gas buses get. However, diesel usually costs 45 cents more per gallon.
The seventh bus would be used for special education.
While the board agreed to purchase the air-conditioned buses, Parish School Board President John Smith says that they will have to be more careful on what they decide to spend their money on in the future.
“These are very rough economic times and we need to be mindful of that when moving forward,” he said. “This board has had no problem getting the things we want, but we may have to start picking and choosing how and when we spend our money.”
Kent Mitchell Bus Sales submitted the lowest bid for the seven buses. Each school bus usually has a life of 300,000 miles before they are retired.
Along with purchasing new buses, the board also used a $200,000 grant from Valero to retrofit diesel school buses with oxidation catalysts and particulate matter filters.
A diesel particulate filter is a device designed to remove soot from the exhaust gas of a diesel engine. A diesel-powered vehicle equipped with functioning filter will emit no visible smoke from its exhaust pipe.
Oxidation catalysts reduce hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and particulate matter on diesel engines.
Around 123 of the school district’s 154 buses take diesel.
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