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their need for new and efficient buses. Wingfield in Visa- lia, California, said her district recently purchased new electric buses, with more on order. All those buses, how- ever, are integrated with a new GPS and student tracking software to help manage COVID-19. “We have purchased three Blue Bird electric school buses and have ordered eight additional electric school buses, due to grants received through our local air board,” she shared. “We have also purchased new GPS and student tracking software that will allow us to track students for safety purposes as well as contact trac- ing. It also allows us to electronically do our pre-trip and post-trip inspections, including disinfection and saniti- zation tracking. By going paperless with our pre- trip inspections, drivers and shop personnel will have reduced contact with forms, etc.” And Visalia Unified plans to buy more buses, but the decision isn’t tied directly to COVID-19. “We plan on applying for future grants to purchase at least 12 more electric school buses,” Wingfield explained. “We also have a replacement plan so that we can purchase additional diesel school buses in order to keep our fleet up to date and cost efficient.” Morris said her Michigan service district plans to


move forward with a rotational bus purchase program, though this was to happen with or without COVID-19. The need for safety is as pronounced now as it was before the pandemic. “Although COVID-19 has taken a toll on all of our


budgets, we still need to ensure that we have the safest vehicles on the road each and every day for our stu- dents,” she said. “We currently are moving forward with our current rotation program that is in place for the purchase of new buses.” Hafezizadeh of Austin ISD in Texas pointed out his


district hasn’t changed its plans to buy buses as needed via bond funds, though he didn’t mention any immedi- ate plans to purchase more.


Creech commented that he plans to purchase buses in


the future for his East Coast Migrant Head Start Project. “Currently, we have about 60 functional school buses and 30 various automobiles,” he reported. “All buses are diesel, Type C, and are medium capacity [for] 32 to 45 passengers. We are looking to purchase between 20 and 30 new buses over the coming two to three years. I have researched electric, gasoline, and alternative fuel buses, including Type A. My recommendation is Type A gaso- line. I would love to go electric, but our rural geographic footprint may not fit best with electric.”


The next genera-


COVID-19 Needs AddresseD By New Purchases: 97% Cleaning/disinfecting 92% PPE/face coverings 38% Infrared Thermometers 35% Barriers/shields 25% Air flow/ventilation 5% Other (student tracking


system, foggers, social distancing)


(Out of 154 reader responses. Multiple answers allowed. Total does not equal 100.)


tion of bus purchases may incorporate a new normal—that is one that includes better tracking technology as well as equipment to expedite sanitation and hygiene. “Here at Thomas Built Buses, we are seeing an increase in requests for onboard Wi-Fi and sanitation and personal hygiene products,” said Ken Whisnant, the OEM’s engineering manager. “Wi-Fi on school buses has brought the class- room to thousands of children who would not have had access to it otherwise, so we see this becoming more commonplace on new vehicles in the future.


Also, items related to sanitization and personal hygiene are in high demand now and we expect that demand to extend sometime beyond this pandemic as its effects remain in the minds of school transportation officials.” While schools stay abreast of their bus purchase strate-


gies, they are becoming more and more interested in bus ventilation systems. More air exchange and cleaner ventilation ties closely to the airborne spread of a virus and addresses the Centers for Diease Control and Pre- vention (CDC) guidance. Improvements in ventilation may help prevent infection and spread in the mostly closed environment of a school bus. Dave Oberdorff, the vice president of sales and mar-


keting for ProAir, LLC in York, Pennsylvania, said the pandemic has stimulated many inquiries for ventilation systems on buses.


www.stnonline.com 37


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