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Penfield is starting down the road of a cleaner ride to school.

The school district recently received a $250,000 grant from New York State to buy its first electric school bus. It’s an investment that district leaders believe will pay off.

“We will be putting [this grant] toward the purchase of an electric bus, as well as the charging station that goes with it,” said Penfield Superintendent Dr. Thomas Putnam. “This was really the pilot, the trial, with the electric bus on our fleet.”

On average, an electric bus costs around $400,000 less upfront including maintenance when compared to a typical diesel bus according to a zero-emission fact sheet put out by the Sierra Club.

The bus fleet once purchased could produce big savings for schools on fuel costs.

“One bus may not have a large impact on the gasoline cost for a school district our size, but it definitely is a start,” said Dr. Putnam.

However, the change doesn’t come without concerns. Among the concerns is how many buses will have to be offline to charge, and how far they can go.

“One concern people do have is particularly in our urban/suburban program, we do have some buses that go pretty far out into rural areas,” said Assemblymember Jen Lunsford. “There may be some concerns there, and we’ve talked about finding ways to waive some of those buses if the technology is not there to match the range.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul said she wants districts to convert to an all-electric bus fleet by 2035.

Ideally, Lunsford would like the electric conversation to be complete in five years.

“The planet can’t wait,” said Lunsford. “I think we would all like to do this slowly and ease into change, but unfortunately, we are finding ourselves in a situation where our climate is changing faster, [and] we can get ahead of it. So, anything we can do to help hasten that goal, we’re going to have to do.”

Gates Chili School District also announced it will add electric buses to its fleet this spring.

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