District 203 doubles down on its EV investment with new purchase

Close up of top of a school bus with the words "school bus" the focus
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While there have been a few reported delays in rolling out a new pilot program, Naperville School District 203 officials are moving forward this fall on the integration of a small fleet of electric vehicles.

The board of education recently greenlit a $239,592 quote for a charging station that will power four new electric school buses when they arrive. District 203 this spring made the decision to pilot an EV bus rollout in its commitment to reduce the carbon footprint.

Supply chain, installation challenges

At the board’s Sept. 18 meeting, Superintendent Dan Bridges acknowledged a delayed timeline for introducing the electric vehicles into the district’s broader fleet. Supply chain issues and installation challenges were the reasons provided.

“The project is already moving a little bit slower than we had hoped,” Bridges said.

Frankfort-based Excel Electric Inc. was the winning bidder, quoting the $239,592 proposal, which was the lowest of the bunch. A total of eight contractors provided bids, with the highest clocking in at $395,000.

In a memo to the board, Mike Frances, chief financial officer, indicated he reviewed the bids, in consultation with Wight and Company, the district’s construction services consultant, and was comfortable moving forward with Excel Electric.

Absent board member asked for delay

District 203 administrators had included the EV charging purchase in the board’s consent agenda.

However, in advance of the meeting, board member Melissa Kelley Black had asked that it be pulled and acted on at a later date because she was not present to cast a vote. Kelley Black had indicated she was unable to attend the meeting, based on an announcement from board President Kristine Gericke.

But Bridges had recommended the board take action at the Sept. 18 meeting, citing the delayed rollout of the electric school buses.

“It is time-sensitive,” Bridges said. “It is a necessary infrastructure to support the board’s initiative on the purchase of electric buses, as a part of the strategic blueprint commitment, regarding reducing our carbon footprint.”

There have been instances in the past when the full board would delay a vote on an agenda item if one member was unable to attend. However, the six board members in attendance at the Sept. 18 meeting moved forward with the affirmative vote for the EV charging station purchase.

“I think we do have precedence in the past, when there is no time pressure,” board member Kristin Fitzgerald said. “But given the time pressure, I think it would be advantageous that we follow the administration’s recommendation and move forward.”

EV buses decided during this spring’s transportation budget

There have been years-long talks of integrating electric buses into District 203’s fleet, but the board this spring voted to move forward with the purchase of four such vehicles as the 2023-24 school year transportation budget was discussed.

The board in March set District 203’s transportation fund for this school year, which totals $3.09 million. The spending package includes a $1.36 million contract with Lion Electric for the carbon footprint-reducing buses.

As often is the case with electric-powered vehicles, there is a higher cost at the outset in comparables, though current projections anticipate eventual financial savings.

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