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Thomas employees and representatives from the Randolph County Schools unveiled the state's first electric bus on Jan. 24.   Eric Abernathy / Randolph Hub

Randolph Schools get state's first electric school bus

ASHEBORO — Being the first at anything is a special honor.


The Randolph County School System received that honor recently when it was named to be among those leading a pilot program for electric school buses across the state of North Carolina.


Five school systems were selected for this unique honor with Randolph County becoming the first school system to unveil the bus during a ceremony on Jan. 24 at the Randolph County Board of Education.


“I’m very excited,” beamed Randolph County School System Superintendent Dr. Stephen Gainey. “This whole experience for me here has been like a dream come true as a school system leader. To be first is really special and it’s great to be trusted by the state to let us be the first. That’s really exciting and speaks volumes for what our staff has done every day. It has to make our staff feel good that we were chosen, especially the transportation staff.”


Among those on hand at the Randolph County Electric School Bus Celebration were Michael Trent, the Director of Innovative Energy Solutions for the Randolph Electric Membership Corporation; Elizabeth Biser, the Secretary for the NC Department of Environmental Quality; Kevin Harrison, the Section Chief for the NC Department of Public Instruction; and Roy Parks, Regional Sales Manager for Carolina Thomas, LLC, the manufacturer of the bus.


RCSS Director of Transportation Wendy Anderson has been one of the local driving forces once the state decided to include Randolph County in this pilot program. At first, she admitted, she wasn’t thrilled, but then she received calls from a number of different organizations who would help with the program and she said she quickly changed her mind.


“At first I said no,” Anderson said, citing the fear of what it would cost taxpayers. “We talked about it more with the DPI and Randolph Electric said they would help. We all sat down and brought Thomasville Bus in and it started rolling from there.”


Funds for the electric school bus, which cost an estimated $385,000, came from a more than $30.1 million Volkswagen Settlement Program, which is being distributed by the NC Department of Environmental Quality to fund 161 new school buses across the state, with the majority of the funding going toward new all-electric school buses.


“This is an opportunity for us to learn as a pilot to make suggestions and give feedback to make this a better program,” Anderson said. 


Anderson said the new electric bus is still being tested and said she expects it to be fully operational by the end of the school year.


She said because the charging station is currently at Southwestern Randolph Middle School, the bus will be tested in the Southwestern Randolph High School and middle school area at first.


“We are going to try it on different routes because we want to see how it performs on hilly routes, flat routes, long routes and short routes,” Anderson said. “We are in a good position to give them quality feedback.”