Toppenish School District gets about $1.2 million for electric school buses

TOPPENISH, Wash. — The Toppenish School District is one of four school districts in Washington state receiving a grant for electric school buses through the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus program.

Toppenish is getting the largest amount in the state at $1,185,000 to pay for three electric school buses and the infrastructure need to charge and maintain the equipment.

The significant investment in clean transportation for students was celebrated this week in Seattle with speeches from Vice President Kamala Harris, Gov. Jay Inslee and Sen. Patty Murray.

“We’re gonna be making those clean buses here in America, creating good paying jobs, all the while promoting clean air and better health outcomes for our kids,” Murray said.

Toppenish School District transportation director Blaine Thorington and others with this district were able to attend the event and meet Vice President Harris.

“It was quite an honor and once in a lifetime event for me,” Thorington said. “I felt very, very honored for the district to be chosen and lot of competition out there.”

Thorington said the biggest direct benefit for the two-thirds of their students who ride the buses will be having cleaner air. He said because they’re in a rural area, some students are traveling for 30 to 45 minutes twice a day.

“We are lucky in Toppenish that we still have the capability to house our buses indoors in cold weather,” Thorington said. “I think is a great benefit to us, because it means potentially longer battery life.”

In exchange for getting the funding for three electric buses, three of their current 23 buses will be destroyed. Thorington said another benefit of the new buses is that they will have air conditioning.

“The electric buses are extremely expensive and there’s no way we could ever put one on the ground without the grant,” Thorington said.

Thorington said they hope to apply for the grant again the next time it’s available as part of their efforts to continue making their transportation better for the environment and their students. He said they should receive the electric buses in about a year.