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DPS Awarded $15 Million Grant for Electric Buses and Infrastructure

The EPA has announced Durham Public Schools as a recipient of $15 million in grant funding towards the purchase of 38 electric school buses and installation of charging infrastructure through the 2023 Clean School Bus Program Awards.  These grant funds will be used to replace existing school buses with zero-emission and clean school buses.  This is a combined total stemming from awards for two of the three of the competitive grant applications that DPS submitted.  

“This truly was a group effort made possible with contributions from the DPS Operations Services department, but especially a testament to Transportation Director Joe Harris’ team,” said Mathew Palmer, DPS Senior Executive Director of Planning and Operational Services.

In the second round of the EPA's Clean School Bus Program, $965 million in funding from the 2022 Bi-Partisan Infrastructure Law was made available nationwide to LEAs, Tribal Districts, and third-party applicants through a lottery rebate program and a competitive grant.  DPS participated in the first-round rebate lottery but did not receive an award.  

For the second-round grant program, DPS joined separate third party applications with Carolina Thomas Buses and Highland Electric Fleets to gain a competitive edge by joining a larger diverse pool of applicants. Recipients of the second-round grant would receive $395,000 per bus towards the purchase of their requested number of replacement electric buses and funding for charging stations and infrastructure.

“We are extremely excited and proud to be the recipient of these funds,” said Dr. Pascal Mubenga, Superintendent of Schools. “This award demonstrates that our district places a high priority on quality of life, academics, and environmental justice for our students. The training and professional development for our drivers and staff will serve to further enhance the skills and services we provide on a daily basis. I applaud our Operations department for its futuristic thinking.”

The EPA evaluated applications using their criteria of districts of high-need that they identified as prioritized (20+% of student population in poverty, tribal, or rural) and their perceived ability to implement the replacement program once awarded.

In addition to the self-certification and support letters, these two winning grant applications received notable letters of support from the following:

  • NC Governor's Office

  • NC Clean Cities

  • NC Department of Environmental Quality

  • NC State Clean Energy Center

  • NC Clean Energy Fund

  • NCDPI, and

  • Duke Energy 

Here are the grant’s highlights:

  • The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) provides $5 billion for the Clean School Bus (CSB) Program to replace existing school buses with clean and zero-emission (ZE) school buses. For each fiscal year between 2022 and 2026, $500 million will be made available to fund zero-emission and clean school buses, and $500 million will be made available to fund only zero-emission school buses.

  • The 38 Electric School Buses will be allocated to routes servicing students and schools that receive Federal Title 1 Program funding

  • As DPS works to integrate Daily STEM Programming into our curriculum across K-12, these vehicles will serve as mobile STEM Laboratories - where students will be able to learn about and experience innovative transportation technologies.

  • Funding will be provided to third party vendors for the procurement of the 38 Electric School Buses, and DPS’ partners will submit for reimbursement from the US EPA (there will be minimal exchange of Federal funding on DPS’ behalf - it’s between the vendors who provide the vehicles and the US EPA).

  • 65% of DPS students are enrolled as bus riders.assigned School Bus Routes

  • DPS operates 155 school buses daily.