School board approves purchase of two buses through VW trust program

School board member Kim Cook (left) listens as Interim Superintendent Heath Cartwright talks to the board about the purchase of two buses through the Volkswagen Mitigation Trust program, enabling the board to buy one bus for free.

The Caldwell County School District Board of Education approved the purchase of two new buses through the Volkswagen Mitigation Trust funds, which would enable the district to be reimbursed for almost half of the cost.

The cost of the two new buses would be $246,656 and the district would be reimbursed $115,953 — 47% of the cost.

The Volkswagen Mitigation Trust was established by the U.S. District Court of Northern California in 2016 when Volkswagen was found in violation of the Clean Air Act because of diesel emissions from its vehicles sold from 2009 to 2016 using a devise alleged to help them “cheat” emissions tests.

VW agreed to set up the trust with several states, tribes and territories, totaling about $3 billion.

“Through a settlement through the Volkswagen Mitigation Trust regarding emissions issues in the past, school districts in Kentucky with qualifying buses with Volkswagen engines manufactured through a certain series of years may purchase replacement buses at a discounted price,” said interim Superintendent Heath Cartwright. “It’s actually full price, but then, we get reimbursed.”

Caldwell County has two qualifying buses for the program, and the new buses must be the same size as the old buses.

“The buses eligible for us to replace are 84-passenger buses,” Cartwright said. “The price for replacement is $115,953 per bus. The addition of a radio paging system on each bus, underneath storage and a camera system bring the total cost per bus to $123,328.”

Cartwright said that while the purchase of alternate-fuel buses is allowed through the program, like those that use propane, those buses do not come with a seating capacity as large as the eligible buses that will be replaced. The largest propane bus only seats 78 passengers.

“With the two new 84-passenger buses, there won’t be a need to purchase the largest-size bus in subsequent years,” Cartwright said. “This will allow the district to research the feasibility of alternate-fuel source buses in years to come.

“We should be in pretty good shape when it comes to the largest school buses with the storage for lengthy trips. This doesn’t prohibit us from looking at other-fuel buses in the future.”

Cartwright added that if the purchase is made this month, the buses could be delivered sometime between April and June.

“They build these once they are ordered,” he said.

The older buses would have to be physically salvaged with their engine blocks drilled through. The older buses were said to be 1998 models.

“We purchased no buses — one last year and none in 2018 — so we’re kind of getting behind,” said Board Chair Tim Kennaday. “If you look back to ’17, ’16, ’15, we (bought) two, three and two (buses), and we usually try to do that.

“If we’re not transporting kids, it’s not as important because your buses are sitting there, and we’ve had some issue with that, but we don’t want to get far behind.”

  • The board approved taking part in the Kentucky Education Technology Systems Offer of Assistance from the School Facilities Construction Commission.

A matching program, the KETS Offer of Assistance is $12,836 to Caldwell County. The board agreement to match that amount provides the district with $25,672 to spend on technology, which could include network upgrades, routers, access points and teacher work stations.

“Each of the Kentucky Department of Education Office of Educational Technology issues a series of offers of assistance for technology,” Cartwright told the board. “The amount issued is based on the average daily attendance per district and appears as a per-pupil offer.”

The school board had the first reading of the 2021-22 academic calendar. The board will vote to approve the calendar at its Dec. 21 meeting.