$20,000 retrofits 14 buses

By Katheran Wasson Published:

Franklin County Public Schools received $20,000 from the federal stimulus package Tuesday, which will fund clean-air technology retrofits on 14 school buses.

"I'm glad that we're going to be a part of this," said Mark Watson, the school district's transportation director. "What we're doing today is going to definitely affect the future."

Franklin County will install devices on bus exhaust pipes to reduce diesel emissions. Diesel exhaust contains small particles and air pollutants that can cause respiratory problems and exacerbate asthma and allergies in children, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Len Peters, secretary of the Energy and Environment Cabinet, said the program will improve children's health and reduce the number of school days missed for illness.

Implementation can begin as soon as the funds are released, Watson said, and should be complete in Franklin County by the end of 2009. The cost is approximately $1,428 per bus.

Buses built since 2006 already have the technology installed, he said, but older buses emit particles of pollution. There are 90 buses in Franklin County's fleet, which travel more than 4,000 miles each day.

Last year, the district implemented a policy to limit idling of school buses. If bus drivers wait for longer than 5 minutes, they turn their engines off, said Wayne Dominick, director of communications for the district.

There will also be a classroom component to the project starting in the upcoming school year, Watson said.

Franklin County is one of six school districts to receive the funds, which were announced Tuesday at the Capitol. Bell, Boone, Fayette and Jefferson counties, and Paducah Independent also received grants.
A total of $196,880 was handed out, according to the governor's office.

Last week, Gov. Steve Beshear announced that Kentucky will receive $1.73 million from the stimulus package to support the Clean School Bus program, administered by the Kentucky Division of Air Quality.

Grant applications will remain open to Kentucky's school districts through May 29.

Statewide 447,000 students ride the school bus each day, driving 102 million miles and burning 13 million gallons of diesel fuel.

First lady Jane Beshear said Tuesday that Kentucky is headed toward becoming the "green capital of the United States." The announcement came one day before Earth Day.

"Making sure that Kentucky stays beautiful for our children and grandchildren is so important to the future of our state," she said.

"The program that we are celebrating today focuses on a healthy environment for our children, particularly those who are sensitive to air pollution."

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