PUSD "Striving to Be 1st to 0" Project Receives $13.8 Million Clean School Bus Program Award

Porterville Unified School District (PUSD) is excited to announce a significant milestone in its "Striving to Be 1st to 0" project. This transformative initiative, aimed at revolutionizing the school transportation system, has been awarded $13,856,664 by the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) 2023 Clean School Bus Program.

The EPA announced the selection of 67 applicants to receive nearly $1 billion through EPA’s first Clean School Bus Program grants competition. Funds are slated to support the purchase of approximately 2,700 buses, over 95% of which will be electric. EPA will distribute awards to recipients in 36 states, assisting 280 school districts to accelerate the transition to zero emission vehicles and improve air quality for over seven million students and communities across the country. Prioritized school districts in low-income, rural, and/or tribal communities make up approximately 86% of the projects selected for funding. The program delivers on President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative, which aims to deliver 40% of the overall benefits of certain federal investments to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved and overburdened by pollution.

PUSD’s "Striving to Be 1st to 0" project, recognized as one of the 67 nationwide recipients of the EPA Clean School Bus grant, aims to replace 35 highly polluting school buses with state-of-the-art zero-emission battery-electric school buses (ESBs). The total project cost is estimated to be $28 million, with $13,856,664 from EPA’s Clean School Bus Program and $14,125,104 leveraged from local and state partners. 

The "Striving to Be 1st to 0" project goes beyond fleet transformation. PUSD has assembled industry-leading partners, including Climate Action Pathways for Schools, CALSTART, The Energy Coalition, and Southern California Edison, to lead multi-layered community engagement, workforce development, and clean energy initiatives. This initiative, executed in collaboration with esteemed partners, aligns with PUSD's overarching goals of reducing energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2030.

"We are proud to announce the EPA's Clean School Bus Program award for our 'Striving to Be 1st to 0' project. We are not only revolutionizing our school transportation system but also creating opportunities for our students, engaging the community, and addressing environmental and economic challenges," said Richard Tree, Director of Transportation and Sustainability at PUSD.

"Receiving the Clean School Bus grant is a milestone for Porterville Unified School District, marking a significant step towards our commitment to environmental sustainability and innovative education. This grant enables us to advance our 'Striving to Be 1st to 0' initiative, transitioning to a cleaner, more efficient transportation system while empowering our students and community through educational programs and hands-on involvement. We're thrilled to embark on this journey, reducing our carbon footprint and fostering a sustainable future for our students,” PUSD Assistant Superintendent for Business Services, Dr. Brad Rohrbach said.

Key Components of the "Striving to Be 1st to 0" Project:

  1. Fleet Transition:
    • Replacement of 35 highly polluting buses with zero-emission battery-electric school buses (ESBs).
  2. Grid-Friendly Infrastructure:
    • Installation of 40 vehicle-to-grid (V2G) bidirectional direct current fast charging (DCFC) stations.
    • Development of a microgrid with a 350 kW renewable energy system and a 3.9 MWh energy storage system.
  3. Community Engagement and Workforce Development:
    • Implementation of a multi-layered workforce development plan, including work-based learning opportunities, internships, and annual "Clean School Bus Summit" events.
  4. Educational Integration:
    • Integration of work-based learning programs into the project to provide students with a 2-year paid internship, hands-on training, and exposure to energy industry professionals.
  5. Public Participation Events:
    • Hosting 5 public participation events to involve the community and ensure transparency throughout the project.

The "Striving to Be 1st to 0" project underscores the holistic approach PUSD is taking to address environmental challenges, enhance education, and engage the community. The funding from the EPA's Clean School Bus Program demonstrates a collaborative effort to create a sustainable and resilient future.

EPA’s Clean School Bus Program aims to: 1) improve air quality by replacing highly polluting buses while accelerating the transformation to low and zero emission alternatives; 2) engage stakeholders in program development, 3) evolve the program, as needed, based on successes and lessons learned, 4) promote cost parity between bus technologies, 5) allow school districts multiple funding opportunities to apply for funding, 6) maximize the number of zero-emission and clean buses that get funded, and 7) ensure a broad geographic distribution of awards.