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story.lead_photo.caption Members of the North Callaway Board of Education discussed topics Tuesday ranging from budget to buses to COVID-19 during their meeting. Photo by Helen Wilbers / Fulton Sun.

KINGDOM CITY — North Callaway R-1 students will enjoy two new school buses when they return to class in August.

During Tuesday night's North Callaway Board of Education meeting, board members approved the purchase of two new 71-passenger buses from Midwest Transit. The buses will cost $85,889 a piece.

"The buses we'll be replacing are older, but the main reason we're replacing them is that we're receiving $20,000 a piece for getting rid of them, to go toward the purchase of the new buses," said Doug Kee, the district's transportation director.

The incentive money comes from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust and an United States Environmental Protection Agency program, he said. The programs encourage districts to replace old buses with non-emission compliant engines with newer, more eco-friendly vehicles.

By participating, the district will get back much more money than they would if they traded the old buses in.

"Last year, we traded in three buses and got around $2,000 each," said Kellie Chapin, North Callaway's business manager.

School board member Kendall Pipes voted against purchasing the buses, citing economic and budgetary uncertainty caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"If you lose your job, you don't buy a new vehicle," he pointed out. "The only thing that makes me nervous is that we don't have the money. ... I think that money would be better allocated somewhere else."

Fellow school board member Sandy Lavy noted the purchase of the two buses was included in the district's 2020-21 budget, which the school board had passed unanimously earlier in the meeting. The budget includes a slight surplus.

Another school bus company also bid, offering two buses at around $90,000 each. Lavy said this is the first time she can recall that two companies have bid to provide buses.

Kee noted the two new buses have a handful more seats each than the buses they'll be replacing. This is a boon, he said, because as the district has consolidated school bus routes, more children have to squeeze onto each bus.

It'll also be easier to install seat belts on the seats of the new buses, should Missouri start requiring school buses to be equipped with seat belts.

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