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Missouri Districts Receive Grant for Electric Buses

Rockwood+has+135+buses+and+12+early+childhood+buses%2C+making+it+the+largest+district+in+the+St.+Louis+area.+%E2%80%9CAs+the+EPA+meets+the+geographic+areas+marked+as+priority%2C+we+will+eventually+become+eligible%2C%E2%80%9D+Heyman+said.+
Morgan Siegel
Rockwood has 135 buses and 12 early childhood buses, making it the largest district in the St. Louis area. “As the EPA meets the geographic areas marked as priority, we will eventually become eligible,” Heyman said.

The Ritenour School District and Ferguson-Florissant School District received a $16 million grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for electric buses (E.Vs). Ritenour will receive 24 buses; Ferguson-Florissant will receive 16. 

“The district is in an area where there is pollution and inequity because we are near the airport,” Bryan Sanker, Ritenour’s director of transportation, said. “We have more pollutants that our students breathe every day, so that was a huge factor in us winning.”

He currently has a total of 28 buses in his fleet, all of them diesel. Once the electric buses are delivered, the district will have to turn in or “take off the market” 24 of his buses.

We have more pollutants that our students breathe every day, so that was a huge factor in us winning.

— Bryan Sanker

Sanker said his buses travel at max 30 miles a day, with most of them only traveling 15 to 20 miles. Because they don’t put as many miles on their buses, EVs will last longer than in larger districts such as the Rockwood School District. 

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Mike Heyman, Rockwood Director of Transportation, said that Rockwood is currently not eligible for an EV grant. 

“As the EPA meets the geographic areas marked as priority, we will eventually become eligible,” Heyman said. 

Rockwood has 135 buses and 12 early childhood buses, making it the largest district in the St. Louis area. 

Heyman said currently, EVs would not be the best for Rockwood because buses travel 50 to 60 miles a day, and the weight and maintenance would be too much. 

For the last four years we have been backing away from diesel and switching to unleaded buses, which have reduced emissions significantly.

— Mike Heyman

“[E.V.s] are in the neighborhood of about 6,000 pounds heavier,” Heyman said. “This causes brakes to wear out faster and batteries as well.”

Heyman said accepting EVs into the district would be an involved process, but the district is currently making some changes. 

“For the last four years we have been backing away from diesel and switching to unleaded buses, which have reduced emissions significantly,” Heyman said.

Susan Hartley, environmental science teacher, said electric buses are a step in the right direction.

“I think electric vehicles are good for the immediate amount of pollution since they’re not using gasoline,” Hartley said. “But at the same time, they are overloading the grid, which is an issue, and we get our electricity from fossil fuels, so whether it’s from an EV that gets plugged into a wall or gasoline from car emissions, it’s still not great.”

Hartley said that Rockwood has a big enough district that it could make a difference and show a conscious shift in environmental stewardship if it were to switch to electric buses. 

This story was originally published on Marquette Messenger on March 15, 2024.