ROCKLAND — The Rockland area school district will be able to purchase an electric bus and will work with Rockland on other renewable energy projects.
Regional School Unit 13 Business Manager Peter Orne announced at the board meeting on Thursday evening April 7 that the Maine Department of Education has approved the purchase of an electric bus. The purchase will take place during the 2022-2023 school year.
The state will reimburse RSU 13 for a total of $343,500 over five years for the bus, Orne said.
While electric buses cost much more than the $105,000 for a regular bus, the operating and maintenance costs are much lower, Orne said.
Board member Chelsea Avirett pointed out that an electric bus also improves air quality.
Orne said he has also spoken with City of Rockland officials about working together to secure grants for other electric buses and other renewable energy projects such as vehicle charging stations. electricity and solar panels on the roofs.
Charging station locations, if grants are received, could be Rockland Fire Station, Ash Point Community School in Owls Head and Cushing Community School.
The district is also considering the possible installation of solar panels on the roofs of Cushing and Ash Point. He said the panels could generate electricity to power the buses and, in turn, the buses could help provide electricity to schools in the event of a power outage.
Over the next few years, the district could get six to eight electric buses, Orne said as the city and district continue to seek grants.
Board member Maria Devery said there was also a cost to supplying electricity to the buses.
At the April 7 meeting, Orne also informed council that the district is on track to return McLain School to the city by December 2023.
The RSU 13 Board of Directors voted unanimously in January 2017 to offer the building to Rockland. Rockland City Council voted in May 2017 to accept the three-story brick building once the neighborhood had no further use for the property.
State law requires school districts to offer school buildings to the municipalities in which they are located when the buildings are vacated.
The city created a committee of volunteers in April 2018 to consider possible reuses of the building for housing.
The McLain Volunteer Housing Committee received proposals in May from Penquis CAP asking for affordable rental housing for people aged 55 and over; Portland’s Avesta Housing for affordable housing for the same age group; and Wishrock, a national company, which is calling for 23 affordable units in the building.
The three-story brick building was built in 1896 and served for nearly a century as a neighborhood elementary school. For more than 20 years, the building has been used for administrative offices and alternative education programs.
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