DUANESBURG — Teachers and coaches will now be able to transport students on limited occasions under a new policy adopted by the Duanesburg school board this week.
The Duanesburg Board of Education, in a 5-0 vote, formally adopted an “occasional drivers” policy introduced last month that will allow certified teachers and coaches to transport up to 16 students to school-sponsored events up to 30 times a year if transportation staff is unavailable.
The policy, which is permitted under state law, comes as school districts throughout the region continue to grapple with a bus driver shortage that has led some schools to cancel bus routes and extracurricular activities.
While such issues haven’t impacted Duanesburg, districts in Ballston Spa and Johnstown, which previously adopted an occasional driver policy, have been hit hard by the driver shortage since the start of the academic year in September.
Under the new Duanesburg policy, teachers and coaches will not be required to undergo normal bus driver training, which requires a Class B commercial driver’s license, but are required to have a valid license and can only transport students in a district-owned passenger van.
Those that do transport students will do so on a voluntary basis only, according to the policy.
“Such driving must take place voluntarily and without additional pay for driving,” the policy reads. “There is no expectation that teachers or coaches will volunteer to drive and volunteering on one occasion does not mean that the coach or teacher will do so on each occasion.”
The new policy likely won’t be the last time Duanesburg school leaders seek to address issues surrounding transportation in the coming years.
On Tuesday, the school board held a brief conversation regarding the future of transportation in the district in light of a state law requiring that all school transportation be done using zero-emission vehicles by 2035. The law was enacted as part of the state budget adopted back in April.
Under the law, any new vehicle purchased or leased by a school district for transportation purposes must be zero-emission by July 1, 2027. Private transportation companies will also be required to abide by the same mandate. School district’s can request a two year extension, but the mandate will fully take effect in July 2035 when all district owned school buses will be electric.
The law comes after state lawmakers approved the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in 2019, which set a number of goals to combat climate change, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the state by 85% of 1990 levels by 2050.
Several states across the country have enacted laws requiring schools to transition to an electric transportation fleet in the coming years, including Maryland and Connecticut and Maine, which will require the transition to take place 2025 and 2040, respectively, according to an analysis by the Rockefeller Institute of Government in Albany.
There are approximately 500,000 school buses in operation across the country, with 95% running on diesel fuel, according to the Rockefeller Institute.
Superintendent James Niedermeier said the transition will not be as simple as purchasing zero-emission school buses moving forward.
Electric buses require charging infrastructure that must be purchased and installed, and the vehicles weigh considerably more than diesel buses, raising questions about whether equipment at the district’s transportation facility, like vehicle lifts, will need to be upgraded and whether the asphalt parking lot will be able to hold the extra weight.
Niedermeier also raised questions about how the vehicles will run in the winter and how an electric bus will handle in the snow and whether the state’s infrastructure will be able to meet the demand of an all electric school bus fleet in 10 years.
Then there’s the price.
A typical diesel school bus costs around $285,000, but an electric bus could cost anywhere between $310,000 and $420,000.
Earlier this year, the district received a $285,000 federal grant to purchase an electric bus, but the money has yet to be spent as the district continues to assess its options and what will be needed to operate an electric bus.
”There’s a lot of things to consider,” Niedermeier said.
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected] or by calling 518-395-3120.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette:
Categories: Email Newsletter, News, News, Schenectady County