West River in-person classes delayed to ensure air quality

Leland & Gray Union Middle and High School in Townshend.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.  

TOWNSHEND — A new task force is taking up the topic of school buses going electric.

At the West River Education District School Board meeting Wednesday, Board Chairman Al Claussen said he believes it would make sense to have Paul Paytas lead the group since he is “heavily invested” in the initiative. Paytas, a Townshend resident who formerly taught and coached at Leland & Gray Union Middle and High School, is part of West River Valley 100 Percent Renewable.

“I’d be honored,” Paytas said.

His hope is the task force can explore the possibility of electric buses, what kind of money is currently available, and how receptive the community would be to seeking grants or other financing for the project. He wants to gather information with the goal of presenting a plan to the board.

Another component involves having the current provider, West River Transportation, weigh in. Paytas said the task force could “see if we can integrate their expertise or their equipment and try to keep the operating of the electric school buses local.”

Support our journalism. Subscribe today. →

“We’re not re-inventing the wheel, just tailoring it to our own needs,” said Mike McAssey of West River Valley 100 Percent Renewable, a Newfane resident who also will be part of the task force. He previously told the board that school districts in northern Vermont and elsewhere in the U.S. already have electric buses.

WRED includes elementary schools in Jamaica, Newfane and Townshend, and Leland & Gray Union Middle and High School in Townshend. Board member Crystal Corriveau noted how the district doesn’t employ drivers or own the vehicles.

“However, the district does pay for the gas for the buses,” Paytas said, “so they have some skin in the game as far as how much money is used to transport the students.”

Paytas said the goal is to “work with the system that we have and try to make it cleaner, less expensive and more environmentally sustainable.”

Board Vice Chairman Joe Winrich volunteered to join on the task force.