Braxton Citizens' News, Community

1st WV electric-school bus receives final prep at local Blue Bird facility

By Shirley Shuman

Workers at Blue Bird Buses located at Coon Knob have been putting the final touches on an electric-powered school bus, the first to be used in West Virginia, on its way to Wyoming County. Two other counties, Boone and Wirt, will also be using electric-powered school buses. The three Blue Bird-manufactured buses headed to Boone County will arrive at the local Blue Bird Buses station for the final touches. The Blue Bird company actually manufactured the first school bus in 1927.

Wayne James, sales representative for the company, pointed out the first buses were gasoline powered. Then came diesel power, and now those concerned about climate control are pushing those electrically powered. He also mentioned that bus manufacturers are actually making propane-powered buses, which he called “green energy buses since they have only one percent of polluting emissions

The sales rep explained that school buses built  at their Fort Raleigh, Georgia,  manufacturing site are prepped for use at the Coon Knob establishment. “At this stop, they are equipped with cameras, mirrors, radios, fog lights—whatever the buyer wants,” he said, “and when that is finished, we deliver them.”

“None of the three counties receiving the electric buses are paying for them. President Joe Biden issued $5 billion dollars to be distributed throughout the nation to provide electric school  buses for those schools that want them so they are bought with federal grant money,” James explained.

Not all counties want these buses, which President Biden would like to see used to lower pollution of emissions from regular buses. Braxton County Superintendent Dr. Donna Burge-Tetrick said she “has no plans to use an electric bus in our county.” However, she did apply for a small bus when the WV State Department of Education offered electric buses for counties on a trial period but has heard nothing further.  The superintendent explained that Dr. Brenda Wells, Director of Operations, did research on the practicality of their use and determined that they would be impractical for the local school system. “For one thing,” Dr. Burge-Tetrick noted, “It takes an entire day to recharge them after they have made their morning runs. If we had an early-out, they would not be charged. In addition, there is only one charging station in our county.” The superintendent also mentioned the terrain local bus drivers face.

Wyoming County’s Director of Transportation Jeffrey Hylton explained why they chose to get the electric bus. “The bus cost us nothing. The State Department asked the counties whether they wanted to try one. We had good success in the pilot program, and since they were free, we decided to get one.”  Hylton, who explained they plan to use their bus “in the Pineville area where the run is under 50 miles,” did point out that the length of time to charge a bus “depends on the type of charge.”  Hylton is obviously concerned about emissions from the diesel-powered buses but did not indicate that Wyoming County school officials plan to purchase additional electric buses.

Perhaps the results found in the counties which have elected to try the electric buses will influence others to consider using them, especially since they are free under the Clean School Bus Act grant.