Ducey awards Volkswagen settlement money to some AZ school districts

Lawsuit settlement brings new school buses

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Governor Doug Ducey rolled out good news for some Arizona school districts on Thursday morning by announcing which ones benefit from the cash collected from a Volkswagen settlement.

Back in January of 2016, the car company was accused of lying on their emissions tests and was sued by the Department of Justice.

Arizona received $57 million of that money, and part of it is being used to fuel change in districts across the state.

Rio Rico High School teacher Richard McPherson drives the Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District buses every day, but his commute doesn't involve taking students home.

“You see the students in a whole new light, perspective as a school bus driver ... that they see me as more than just their teacher,” he explained.

He takes his students to the land lab a couple miles away for hands on experience, so they can put their green thumbs to work.

He said he learned to drive the buses to take any pressure off the district's transportation department, "Where we're located we travel to everywhere."

Some of the district's buses are without A/C, like the one McPherson drives daily. He knows, though, how to make it cool and comfortable.

"I can get it up to 25 miles an hour and open the windows and after a hot day of welding at the farm - that feels cool and comfortable," he said. However, even better comfort is coming.

With that settlement money, districts like Santa Cruz Valley are trading in some of their old buses for new ones.

Districts who wanted financial assistance applied back in August, and found out on December 6 if they made the cut.

Santa Cruz Valley currently has 45 buses. Their oldest bus dates back to 1988. A couple of them are out of service.

Now with an award of $440,000, they should be getting four new diesel buses to take their transportation department the extra mile.

"(It will) Increase our route times and how far we're able to take certain buses," said Melisa Landerville, the Assistant Superintendent for the Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District.

It's all an effort to make sure your childs' safety remains a top priority.

"If the driver is comfortable, the driver is safe ... and if the driver is safe, the students are safe," said McPherson.

SCVUSD chose to receive their money before the end of the fiscal year. While there's no set timeline, district official said plans for new buses should roll out by June.

Nogales is expected to receive one new bus, Flowing Wells will get two, and Douglas will also receive one.

A total of 142 new buses are expected to hit the road when all is said and done.

A full list of the districts can be found here >> https://azgovernor.gov/sites/default/files/wave_1_bus_awards.pdf

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