September 7, 2022
Letter to the Editor Submission in the Sentinel by Elsa Vargas, Chispa Maryland volunteer of Takoma Park, MD
In Montgomery County, kids with learning disabilities are once again being sent to the back of the line. Instead of riding clean, zero-emissions school buses, special-education students that enter first grade next year will spend all their school years riding polluting diesel buses.
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) deservedly made headlines last year for making a commitment to replace 326 diesel school buses with electric school buses over the next four years. At the time, Superintendent Jack Smith said, “MCPS has been working to increase sustainable practices in all aspects of our school system operations. It’s critical that we be good stewards of our natural resources and do our part to protect the environment.”
Why, then, did MCPS recently decide to purchase – without an RFP – 64 diesel school buses for its special-education program? Diesel school buses emit dangerous pollutants that kids breathe into their developing lungs, causing respiratory illnesses, aggravating asthma, and exposing youth to cancer-causing pollutants. MCPS’s new diesel buses will have a shelf life of up to 15 years. So, the County is locking in more than a decade of pollution exposure for its at-risk kids like my daughter, who suffers from asthma and rides the bus to school. That just doesn’t add up.
We know that electric school buses protect kids’ health while also fighting climate change. Our children have the right to breathe clean air. MCPS and other school districts throughout Maryland need to fully commit now to clean buses for all students.