COLUMBIA – With just one public high school to serve a spread out rural county, the school bus system is crucial to academic success in Fairfield County. That system should soon get a boost thanks to states purchase of its first new school buses since 2008. State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais announced on Thursday that the South Carolina Department of Education (SCDE) has received the first deliveries of new school buses. After all deliveries are completed, 342 new school buses, equipped to transport students with and without disabilities, will be in service in state-owned bus shops across South Carolina.
“Transporting students safely to and from school is a priority for the Department and school districts,” said Dr. Zais. “These buses are more fuel efficient, less expensive to maintain, and are equipped to transport students with disabilities. Today marks the first step in modernizing the nation’s oldest school bus fleet.”
The new school buses will replace all buses from model years 1984, 1985, 1986, and 1987, as well as some 1988 models. Each bus cost $82,030, and the SCDE spent a total $28,054,260 from lottery revenues, general fund carryforward revenues, and revenues from the sale of scrap metal from decommissioned school buses.
Dr. Zais thanked the General Assembly for prioritizing funds for school bus procurement in the past two state budgets. Of the total funds spent, 88-percent or $24,567,000 were appropriated from unclaimed lottery prize funds and excess lottery revenues in Fiscal Years 2011-2012 and 2012-2013. Zais has supported and requested funding for school bus procurement during his tenure as State Superintendent of Education. He also requested $34,000,000 for school bus purchases in Fiscal Year 2013-2014.
“Today is an example of how elected officials from different political parties can come together and work towards a solution,” said Zais. “South Carolina didn’t earn the distinction of operating the oldest bus fleet in the nation overnight,” said Zais, “and this issue won’t be fixed overnight.”
Zais concluded, “State government has heard the concerns of students and parents about the age of the school bus fleet, and today is a tangible milestone as we work towards resolving this issue in the years ahead.”