McDuffie County Schools will consider natural gas as a bus fuel. The scope and timing of a test have yet to be determined, according to Superintendent Jim LeBrun.
Addressing a Dec. 7 Board of Education work session, Mr. LeBrun said, "Everything we're seeing in the literature, is once you have a natural gas vehicle the cost is about 50 percent of diesel."
He said the school district could buy a bus built to run on natural gas, or could refit an older bus for that purpose.
School board member Dexter Lovins asked about the cost of retrofitting a bus, and Transportation Director Henry "Butch" Blount said he is getting an estimate.
The school district has authorized bids for four new 72-passenger buses. Mr. LeBrun said information has been mailed to five vendors, who will be notified of the option of bidding one bus to run on natural fuel.
He also said he hopes to buy four buses each year.
If the school district has enough natural-gas buses, it might become advisable for the district to set up its own fuel pump, he said.
Mr. Blount said the buses would have a fuel range of about 340 miles, enough for most field trips or for sports travel.
Mr. LeBrun said that with the changing cost of fuels, it would be wise to study the natural gas option. "As we now move into 2011 and into 2012, we need to have an open mind about what might be out there," he said.
Bus bids will be opened at the Jan. 11 work session, and contracts can be awarded Jan. 13.
Mr. LeBrun said some school districts have found some budget liquidity by selling their buses to a contractor and then leasing those buses. He said he does not believe that would be a prudent move for McDuffie County.
In other action Dec. 7:
Fourth- and fifth-graders from Norris Elementary School were on hand to present the invocation, Pledge of Allegiance and Christmas music. The 26 singers were under the direction of Tammy McClure.
Results were reported from the WorkKeys assessment given to all Thomson High School seniors. In order to receive a Georgia Work Ready Certificate, students were tested on math, reading for information and locating information. Ben Colberg and Alexis Romero scored at least six on all three sections and received platinum certificates.
Tim Powell of Tim's Tire & Automotive, 1213 Washington Road, asked permission to establish a discount program for school employees. In keeping with the board's policy at work sessions, no action was taken on his request.
Mr. LeBrun recommended that the proposed school board code of ethics lay on the table until January in order to comply with state law. Mr. LeBrun said boards may add provisions.
At Thursday's regular meeting, board member Greg Derry suggested adding training and a required signature to the ethics code "in the unlikely event there's a board that's not as ethical as us in the future."
"If you hold someone to a standard, I would like them to know what it is," Mr. Derry said.
Mr. LeBrun explained that the McDuffie School Board is a Board of Distinction under the Georgia School Boards Association, which requires extra training and higher standards.
The superintendent added that Mr. Derry's suggestion of a form and signature would be included.
(Staff Writer Lynn Davidson contributed to this article.)