Oct 16, 2018 Students in the Gulf Islands School District could be getting to school in a much greener way, after the school board voted to support in principle a proposal to bring in an electric school bus for the district.
The Salt Spring Community Energy Society proposed the project as a partnership between the two organizations. The society presented the proposal to the board at the Oct. 10 meeting on Mayne Island. The intention is to conduct a feasibility study that would be the basis for fundraising for and commissioning of the school bus. SS Community Energy will provide funds for the study.
“We’re willing to consider anything that reduces our carbon footprint,” said SD64 chair Rob Pingle. ‘The board was happy to approve the request. It’s going to take a lot of research and study to figure out if it works, but were willing to look into it.”
According to a letter sent to the school board from the society, transportation contributes the largest portion of the school board’s greenhouse gas output. The plan for an electric school bus would reduce pollution, improve children’s health as well as with fuel and maintenance costs.
“An electric school bus in the district will help to expand and show [the district’s] leadership and educational role in the community,” the letter read. “A district electric school bus will show that the district Is seriously moving toward a low-carbon, sustainable future.”
The district voted to support the request, which gives SS Community Energy the go-ahead to begin their feasibility study. Though the study is not a guarantee of acquiring a new bus, it does give the board the framework to move forward in the case of ministry funding.
“We would hope that the feasibility study would prepare us for the next time that we have access to funds from the province. We could consider taking on an electric bus and maintaining it,” Pingle said. “Helping ensure that we have the right information so that we can feel confident to take that move would be really helpful.”
SS Community Energy aims to present their findings to the board in early 2019. Their study will look at the appropriateness of the school bus on the islands, any regulations that may affect the project, different options for bus construction or acquisition and financial implications of the project.
Electric school buses are a relatively new concept for school districts. The idea already has traction in California, with multiple start-up companies building the vehicles. However, the Salt Spring proponents would have to ensure the bus’ feasibility on Salt Spring and in the Gulf Islands.
“There was a bit of nervousness [at the meeting] about whether a large electric school bus with 64 seats would ever be feasible,” Pingle said.
“At the same time, it’s the energy society that wants to do the work to figure that out and we would never stand in the way of that. It was more just speculation.”
The school board partnered with SS Community Energy in 2014 to install an 84-panel, 21 kW solar array at Gulf Islands Secondary School. The energy savings have been used to create scholarships for students.
BY MARC KITTERINGHAM Gulf Islands Driftwood Staff