The South-Western City School District is purchasing 11 newer-model school buses that will help reduce diesel emissions.

The transactions will complete the district's participation in the Diesel Emission Reduction Grant program.

In 2017, the district received a $902,131 federal grant administered by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to fund a portion of the cost of purchasing 21 school buses to replace older, higher-emission models.

The first 10 buses were purchased in July 2018.

"It's taken awhile to get all the gears in motion to complete the process," said Monte Detterman, the district's director of business services. "We're really excited about the new buses that will be coming in."

Buses typically are delivered about four months after they are ordered, he said.

The South-Western school board Jan. 7 authorized the district to purchase the 11 additional buses.

The district was one of 30 applicants, including 12 school districts, in Ohio that shared in the $12.8 million in funds awarded in 2016 through the DERG program.

The Ohio EPA estimates its DERG program will remove more than 137 tons of air pollutants throughout the state, Detterman said.

The grant money covers about 45 percent of the cost of the buses, Detterman said. The district will cover the rest of the cost.

Normally, South-Western's bus-replacement cycle results in a bus being replaced after 18 years of service, he said.

"This grant program is allowing us to replace some of our older-model buses a little sooner than we would otherwise be able to do," Detterman said.

The 21 new buses purchased through DERG are replacing 2002-04 model year diesel-powered buses.

In 2009, the district used a $296,000 EPA grant to install filters on 35 of its older diesel-powered buses. The filters reduce the emissions coming from the buses.

The buses that are being replaced with the help of the grant money had designs that did not allow them to be included in a retrofitting project, transportation director Tim Cox said.

Since the federal government adopted stronger emission standards for school buses in 2010, the district has been purchasing vehicles that meet those standards, he said.

Most of the district's fleet of 200 buses meet the emission standards, Detterman said.

"We have a few more to replace," and they will be replaced with more enviromentally-friendly models when they reach the end of their cycle, he said.

The higher-emission vehicles are sent to the scrap yard after they are replaced, Detterman said.

"We don't use them anymore, even as backup buses," he said.

On an average school day, about 10 percent of the district's fleet is available to fill in as backup vehicles as needed, Detterman said.

"It's not just a case of those buses being used when another one has broken down," he said.

"If a bus is needed to transport students on a field trip, we'll move one of the backups in to complete the regular bus route to take students to school," Detterman said.

The 180 buses that go out on routes each day transport more than 14,500 students, he said.

The responsibility of transporting thousands of students to school each day leads the district's transportation department to taking special care to ensure buses will start on cold winter mornings.

"Jump-starting a bus is different from jump-starting your car," said route supervisor Eric Kinney. "A car has just one battery and a bus has multiple batteries, so it's much more involved."

A start-up crew -- composed of several school bus drivers -- arrives early each morning to start each vehicle, he said.

"We have a few buses that hit the road as early as 5:30 a.m., so the start-up crew gets here by 5 a.m.," Detterman said.

On cold nights, the buses are connected to block heaters to help ensure they will start in the morning, Kinney said.

"We don't have many issues getting the buses started because we use the block heaters," he said.

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