Three new electric school buses could be in Walla Walla as soon as January.
And more could be on the way if the Walla Walla Public Schools are approved for a federal grant.
“It’s all to work toward a cleaner energy solution and if you continue to have all your diesel busses running then you aren’t really working toward that,” said Nancy Taylor, director of fiscal services for the school district.
The buses are being funded by a grant from the state Department of Ecology under a program that was overshadowed in recent days by a similar federal program announced in Seattle by Vice President Kamala Harris.
Walla Walla didn’t qualify for the initial round of funding under the federal program but has applied for grants to finance three more buses under a second round of funding.
“We knew going into it that we didn’t qualify for the first round, but they encouraged us to go ahead and apply so we could be short listed for the second round,” Taylor said. “We don’t expect that to come until sometime in the spring.”
Meanwhile, the district awaits arrival of the first three buses.
The last time we checked, it sounds like we may get those as soon as January or February,” Taylor said. “We are in the process of finalizing permits to put the infrastructure in for the charging stations.”
The Ecology Department pays up to $325,000 per bus for school districts approved for the program.
The school district operates 42 buses, according to Transportation Coordinator Gene Thompson. The new buses will not increase the size of the bus fleet. Both the state and federal programs require an old bus to be destroyed for each new electric bus purchased.
“The district is really trying to be proactive in taking advantage of all the grants available,” she said. “And in trying to be conscientious in our footprint.”