In the U.S. State of Missouri, the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District is celebrating a unique program that uses alternative resources to generate funds for technology infrastructure to help students succeed. The program, which includes what is claimed to be the nation’s largest school bus transition to compressed natural gas (CNG), also benefits the environment and saves dollars for taxpayers. The Lee’s Summit R-7 School District Transportation Department is a district owned fleet of 149 school buses transporting approximately 12,700 students daily.
The lease-purchase program is part of a continuing emphasis on using innovative funding methods to benefit students and the community by the local school district. The plan includes transition to safe, energy-efficient school buses powered by compressed natural gas (CNG); a move toward CNG-powered facility maintenance trucks; and continuation of the district’s use of all-electric delivery trucks.
The changes within the school district’s Transportation Department and Purchasing and Distribution Department will greatly reduce both fuel costs and reliance on foreign oil products while also creating a more environmentally friendly school district fleet.
A portion of the estimated $11 million in overall savings from this 10-year initiative will be used to purchase technology infrastructure and equipment that will benefit all R-7 schools and facilities.
The school bus transition and technology upgrades are currently underway with the first phase of the switch to CNG-powered vehicles taking place this summer. Additional phases of the vehicle transition will occur as buses and vehicles are due for replacement in future years.
The transition from diesel-powered school buses to buses powered by CNG is also made possible through partnerships with companies providing compressed natural gas and with school bus manufacturers, including Clean Energy, Thomas Built Buses and Midwest Bus Sales. Through this partnership, the district will convert the following vehicles to compressed natural gas over the next few years:
- 149 buses,
- a school district refrigerator truck used for delivery of food items, and
- approximately 46 vehicles used by the district’s Facilities Services maintenance and custodial employees.
The new buses are being phased in with 106 CNG-powered buses being delivered for 2013-14 and the remainder delivered for the 2014-15 school year. The district’s school bus fleet travels approximately 2 million miles each year with the overall R-7 school bus fleet age exceeding 10 years before the CNG-powered conversion.
Long-term fuel and maintenance savings are estimated at approximately $11 million with outside resources for the initiative totaling close to $3.5 million. In terms of cost per gallon, current estimates show the district saving close to 70 percent in fuel costs when comparing diesel fuel to CNG.
R-7 to operate CNG public filling station
The initiative includes construction of a compressed natural gas (CNG) filling station near the district’s Transportation Department. This facility will serve all school district vehicles while providing the community and Kansas City metropolitan area with a public CNG filling station. The station, which will open to the public in fall 2013, will provide additional revenue for the district since Lee’s Summit R-7 will receive a royalty on retail CNG sales.
As part of the lease-purchase initiative, the district purchased 1.5 acres next to the current Transportation Department and Facilities Department buildings.
(Source: Lee’s Summit R-7 School District)