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Talbot Board of Ed talks electric school buses, solar array

EASTON — The Talbot County Board of Education met Wednesday evening for their monthly meeting. One of the exciting topics of discussion was the approval to purchase new school buses. School buses must be purchased as soon as possible, as they take several months for delivery and the goal would be for the buses to be available by August 2023 before the start of school.

New buses cost from $150,000 to $170,000 for a bus with a wheelchair lift. The board approved a purchase of eight 84-passenger buses and one 63-passenger bus with the wheelchair lift. The total purchase price for the new buses is $1,511,121.

Buses are retired after 15 years of service and resold for much less than their purchase price. While electric buses were discussed, School Operations Spokesperson Kevin Shafer says the infrastructure is not ready for electric buses currently, but work is being done to prepare for them. When electric buses are purchased by the county, they are not expected to last as long as 15 years.

Next the board heard a proposal from Easton Utilities for an easement to place solar arrays on school property near the Rails to Trails in Easton with an upsized system to be ready for electric buses.

“This request is specific to the campus here at the Talbot County Education Center and it deals with the electrical services,” said Shafer.

The project would move electric wires from above ground to below ground which would protect wires from the elements.

“The benefits of the service change would be more reliability, having above ground on Rails to Trails makes it vulnerable to storms and branches and that kind of thing,” said Shafer.

Shafer said the utility company was asked to make provisions for electric buses when converting the system as part of the easement. The electric buses would require a system strong enough for keeping them charged.

“I did ask about the possibility of upsizing the service because we would be at some point transitioning to electric buses and so we would need to have greater capacity and so the response I got was yes, they would do that,” said Shafer.

The system could possibly handle over a dozen electric buses.

“Our electrician has looked at the specifications for a possible charging solution when we get to that point and we think we could probably handle 10 to 15 buses here on this lot,” said Shafer.

Next, the board heard from Superintendent Sharon Pepukayi during her address. She talked about how this is National Apprenticeship Week which helps both high school students and local businesses.

“The program is intended to allow high school juniors and seniors to develop valuable job skills and get a head start on future careers. At the same time the program supports Maryland businesses by training talented high skilled workers in much needed resources,” said Pepukayi.

Pepukayi also acknowledged the upcoming holidays.

“We have the holiday season coming up this month and next month so you can see a lot of concerts. We’re still getting dates and times for upcoming concerts coming soon,” said Pepukayi.

Pepukayi also talked about the first marking period and meeting and greeting students and faculty.

“I also want to share that the first marking period is over and I’m out and about all around the schools and the community talking with different organizations,” said Pepukayi.