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Paso school district receives funding for new buses

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Paso Robles Joint Unified School District put $330,000 toward two new school buses thanks to a grant the district applied for in 2019 to provide more reliable transportation for students on longer routes.

According to School District Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Brad Pawlowski, the money was a long time coming because the pandemic delayed disbursement of funds.

"They've finally gotten to us," he told New Times.

ROAD TRIP Paso Robles has received funding for two renewable diesel buses to transport students on field trips and sporting events. - PHOTO COURTESY OF PASO ROBLES JOINT UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
  • Photo Courtesy Of Paso Robles Joint Unified School District
  • ROAD TRIP Paso Robles has received funding for two renewable diesel buses to transport students on field trips and sporting events.

The district's school board approved the grant's stipulations at its July 9 meeting, allowing the district to start the process of purchasing the buses.

"Staff has come up with a great way to buy buses at a fraction of the cost," board member Jim Cogan said before voting in favor.

The school district was awarded $165,000 for each bus from the California Air Resources Board under the Rural School Bus Pilot Program. The money will buy two renewable diesel buses intended to transport students on field trips or for sporting events throughout SLO County, Pawlowski said.

Currently the district provides mandated school bus routes for students with disabilities using four diesel buses in its fleet. According to the staff report presented to the board on July 9, these buses are on average more than 16 years old and have more than 150,000 miles on them.

The district also transports students as part of a homeless assistance act.

While the $330,000 won't cover all the expenses for two new buses, it will cover the majority of it.

According to Pawlowski, each bus is expected to cost $199,985, leaving a remaining $69,970 out-of-pocket cost for the district.

However, North County has experienced bus driver shortages throughout the past couple of years, an ongoing issue in Paso Robles as it currently has eight drivers to transport an average of 200 students per day. Despite the shortage, Pawlowski sees the grant as an opportunity to create a more robust transportation system and said the near $70,000 "is very little out of pocket in the scheme of things."

Board member Kenney Enney expressed support for receiving the new buses, but said he approved the grant under the condition the district evaluate its buses to better reflect the number of drivers.

"I think our board understands the challenges that we face when it comes to staffing ... but at the same time, they also are fiscally responsible," Pawlowski said.

The new buses are expected to be in the district and running by late September. Δ

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