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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — The Colfax school district has received a $30,000 rebate from the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School bus program for the purchase of one liquid propane (LP) bus.
The rebates were available for LP buses, and to qualify, the school district must have one older diesel bus that will be pulled off the road and replaced with an LP bus, said William C. Yingst Jr., district administrator, at the Colfax Board of Education’s November 14 meeting.
The rebate of $30,000 is a significant portion of the most recent LP bus purchase at $110,000, he said.
It should be noted that the cost now for all buses, no matter what fuel they burn, is over $100,000, an increase from about $70,000 a few years ago.
The Colfax school district also has received a $2,500 grant from Synergy Cooperative, Yingst noted.
The cost for propane is $1.74 per gallon, while diesel is $5.30 to $5.50 a gallon and regular gasoline is $3.50 to $4.40, depending on whether it is regular gasoline or premium gasoline, he said.
The Colfax school district currently has 10 LP buses, and there are plans to purchase another LP bus next year, Yingst said.
Ken Bjork, school board member, asked if there were any downsides to running LP buses.
Yingst said that there have been no downsides to the LP buses.
The first three LP buses purchased by the school district had smaller tanks, which meant their range was smaller and they had to be refueled more often, but the newer LP buses have larger tanks, he said.
The power of an LP bus is as good as the power of a diesel bus, and the LP buses are quieter, too, Yingst said.
The bus drivers have paid attention to the power of the LP buses in places like the Knapp Hill and have concluded the power is as good as diesel, he said, noting that the first time he had an opportunity to observe the LP buses pulling out from the elementary school driveway, he wondered if they were running or just coasting because the engines ran so quietly compared to the diesel buses.
“The LP buses have worked out well for the school district,” he said.
Jacklyn Ackerlund, school board member, asked Yingst how he knew to apply for the rebates and other grants.
The Blue Bird Body Company and Synergy have notified the school districts of rebates and grants, and the dealerships also will notify the district, Yingst said, noting that he has found out about some grant opportunities on his own as well.
Several school board members asked about the possibility of using electric buses.
Electric buses are still probably two years out and would require the school district to install charging stations, Yingst said, adding that he has asked about electric buses and has been told the dealerships are unable to get them yet.
If the electric buses work out, then they would be a good bridge from the propane buses, he said.
The Colfax school district’s goal is to replace one bus every year.
According to information from the EPA included in the school board packet, EPA awarded nearly $1 billion in rebates for the Clean School Bus program in October.
The Clean School Bus program is “a rebate competition for school districts that will improve air quality in and around schools and communities, reduce greenhouse gas pollution and better protect children’s health,” according to the EPA.
High needs school districts were prioritized, including school districts with more than 20 percent of the students in poverty, rural school districts, Tribal school districts and districts in underserved and overburdened communities, the information states.
This year’s awards of $1 billion are the first of a five-year, $5 billion program under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law signed into law by President Joe Biden on November 15, 2021.
EPA will announce the next round of funding and expects to make another $1 billion available for clean school buses in 2023, according to the EPA information.
You can learn more about the grant competition at www.epa.gov/cleanschoolbus.
In other business, the Colfax Board of Education:
• Learned from John Dachel, Colfax High School principal, that Colfax’s Science Olympiad team will be competing at Boyceville on December 3 and at Medford on January 14. Colfax also will participate in a virtual Science Olympiad competition in Ohio. The regional competition will be held in Menomonie on March 4, and the state competition will be held at UW-Milwaukee March 31 and April 1. Colfax has nine students on the Science Olympiad team.
• Learned that the cafeteria projects still need wall graphics and that graphics are expected to be done by or during Christmas break.
• Learned that there is lettuce shortage and that while 20 pounds of lettuce formerly cost the school district $42, the cost now is $101. A disease in the lettuce at harvest time created the shortage, and the shortage will go on for a while, Yingst said, noting that other substitutes for lettuce are expensive as well.
• Received notification of the school board election on April 4, 2023. Incumbent school board members Kenneth Bjork, Jodi Kiekhafer and Jaclyn Ackerlund will up for election for three-year terms. The first day to circulate nomination papers is December 1, and the deadline for filing nomination papers is 5 p.m. Tuesday, January 3, in the office of the school district clerk. If a primary is necessary, the primary election will be held February 21, 2023. Under state law, school districts are required to publish a Type A notice no later than the fourth Tuesday in November preceding the spring election.
• Accepted a $5,000 donation from the Sanger Family Foundation that will be placed in the school district’s student assistance fund. The mother of the family was a resident at Area Nursing Home, and the family appreciated the care so much that they wanted to do something for the school and the community, Yingst said. The Sanger Family Foundation has been giving $5,000 per year to the school district since before Area Nursing Home closed and moved to the new location in 2012, he said, adding that the school district has received about $75,000 from the Sanger Family Foundation to date.