WINTHROP — Two central Maine schools will be getting electric buses as part of a federal program that awarded nearly $1 billion to 389 school districts in the U.S.

Winthrop was awarded $1,580,000 for four electric buses and Somerville-based Regional School Unit 12 was awarded $790,000 for two electric buses, as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean School Bus Program.

Altogether, the funding, which was included in the bipartisan infrastructure law passed by Congress late last year, will help schools across the country purchase more than 2,400 clean school buses as part of the agency’s efforts reduce air pollution and help the transition to zero emission vehicles.

Winthrop Public Schools and Somerville-based Regional School Unit 12 have been selected to receive federal funding to purchase electric school buses, like this one used by the Mount Desert Island Regional School System. The blue wheels indicate that it’s an electric bus. Courtesy of Eric Hann

“These pollutants have a significant impact on people’s health — to the health of children who ride the bus, the bus drivers, and the folks in surrounding neighborhoods and communities,” EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe said in a press release. “With unprecedented funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are forever transforming how students across this country will get to and from school.”

Jim Hodgkin, superintendent of Winthrop Public Schools, said that while he was at first unsure of being a “guinea pig for trying out new buses,” he spoke with several experts in both the state and federal Department of Education as well as the Maine Department of Transportation and they addressed most of the concerns he initially had.

Hodgkin said the four buses, which hold approximately 150 miles between charges, will be used for transporting students to and from school.


“Winthrop is not a very large community,” Hodgkin said, “so that kind of charge is more than sufficient.”

The superintendent said the funding will also include $20,000 per bus to pay for the installation of charging stations on the school’s campus.

The Department of Education also approved funding for Winthrop to purchase two diesel buses. Hodgkin said these buses will be primarily used for sports travel and extra-curricular trips.

He said the buses are expected to arrive at some point between January and June of 2023.

RSU 2, which is based in Hallowell, applied for two electric buses but the request was not approved this year and the school was placed on a waiting list. According to the EPA, the selection process involves creating a single ordered list through a random number generator lottery process.

Schools on the 2022 waiting list will have a chance to be selected if any of the selected schools are deemed ineligible, drop out of the program, or otherwise reduce their funding request.

Any schools not selected this year will have an additional four years to apply for the funding lottery, as the program provides $5 billion altogether over five years.

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