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MPS awarded grant for first air-conditioned buses

New school buses have been rolling around Mustang Public Schools’ district.
For bus driver David Venters, they make all the difference.

Mustang Public Schools bus driver David Venters sits behind the wheel. Venters is one of three drivers who were assigned the new air-conditioned buses. Photo / Haley Humphrey

Three gasoline-fueled Blue Bird Corp. school buses equipped with air conditioners were delivered to the district in September. These are the first air-conditioned route buses to be in service for MPS.
Venters, who has driven for the district for six years, said students had to withstand 100-degree temperatures in the older buses. As a driver of one of the new air-conditioned buses, Venters said it’s a lot easier on both him and his students.
The buses are also more environmentally friendly, as they are gas-fueled.
Donnie Ryan, MPS assistant transportation director, said the district tries to get new buses each school year to remain updated on new safety features. Throughout the years, Ryan said bus makers have increased cushion thickness and seat height for student comfort and protection.
The new buses also have remote controlled mirrors, whereas before, drivers would have to physically adjust the side mirrors.
“A lot of little features that you don’t really think about that make a big difference until you have to deal with them,” Ryan said.
More advanced technology for opening bus exits also was added, meaning the mechanisms in place now make it easier for people to lift. Additional cameras are also new.
The new buses are assigned to the longest-distanced routes.
Each bus cost $90,877. To help pay for the cost, the transportation department applied for a state Diesel Emissions Reduction Act grant in 2019. The grant is a part of a program through the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality to ensure school districts have efficient vehicles. MPS received $62,907.75 to replace a 1999, 2001 and 2002 models.
Including the three new ones, the district has 85 buses in service. About a third of the buses have gasoline engines. The others are diesel-fueled.
Typically, the transportation department tries to get between two and three new buses each school year. The process of obtaining new school buses begins each calendar year with the department’s budget.
Their budget this year was $280,000. In 2019, the department received $20,000 less. The budget encompasses money for new vehicles and parts to last three years or more.
The department also applied for the state 2020 DERA grant in November, as well as the federal grant in October and should hear back from both by January regarding how much they’re awarded. Ryan said they’re requesting three more gasoline-fueled buses to replace three current ones.
They’re looking to replace two 2003 models and one 2005 model.
“Part of the program requires that the buses are actually destroyed and to not be used anymore,” Ryan said.
The older models no longer meet emission standards.
“That’s part of their replacement is to help better the environment by getting rid of these old buses that have more pollutants and replacing them with newer buses that have less pollutants,” Ryan said.
He said the buses’ bodies are destroyed and turned to scrap by the department’s vendor, Ross Transportation, Inc. The vendor drills holes into the engines and oil pans.
MPS began purchasing gas-fueled buses in 2017. They are expected to save the district between $5,000 and $7,000 per bus each year.
Bus purchases are made possible through funds from the voter-approved 2012 bond.

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