ROCKLAND — The Rockland area school district expects its first electric bus to arrive next month.

Outgoing Regional School Unit 13 Business Manager Peter Orne informed the board at its Wednesday, Aug. 3 meeting that the bus would arrive in September. He said he believed RSU 13 would be the first school district in the area to acquire an electric bus.

Orne said the Maine Department of Education approved the district’s purchase of the electric bus. The payments made by the district will be factored into the state’s reimbursement to the district.

The 2023 bus costs $349,976. The battery can drive 135 miles on a charge. The 34-foot long bus can carry 77 passengers.

While the electric buses cost far more than the $105,000 for a regular bus, the costs of operation and maintenance are far less, Orne said at an April board meeting.

Board member Chelsea Avirett of Rockland pointed out in April that an electric bus also improves the air quality.

Board member Maria Devery of Owls Head voiced concerns at the Aug. 3 meeting about the safety of electric buses. She said that an electric bus owned by the state of Connecticut exploded and the state took its other electric buses out of commission while it investigated the cause.

Orne said such an event is rare. He said the district is not replacing its traditional bus fleet with electric buses until they prove themselves, particularly how they perform in the winter. The district is working to get a charging station at its bus garage but in the interim will check with Rockland and Thomaston to see what they have available.

The district can apply for a federal grant to get charging stations installed, he said.

New staff hirings

The Rockland area school board approved Wednesday evening the hiring of several employees for the upcoming school year.

The RSU 13 board approved the appointment of Peter “Max” Black as RSU 13’s business manager. He succeeds Orne who is employed with the Five-Town CSD/SAD28.

Also approved at the Aug. 3 meeting were Chris Rivera, resource room teacher at Oceanside High School; Shirlynn Sears, third-grade teacher at the South School; Crystal Baughman, fourth/fifth grade literacy teacher at Thomaston Grammar School; Mackenzie Chaisson, upper elementary teacher at South School; Eric Hebert, social studies teacher, Oceanside High School; and Brad Deuring, health/physical education teacher at Oceanside Middle School. Kelly Taylor was re-hired as social studies teacher at Oceanside High School.

The board also accepted the resignations of staff members. Those were Linda Wyler, school counselor at Oceanside Middle School; Tabbitha Johnston, third grade teacher at Thomaston Grammar School; and Joanna Duke, health and physical education teacher at Oceanside Middle School.

New meeting day

In another action, the board discussed briefly a decision by Board Chair Loren Andrews to change the regular monthly meetings from the first Thursday of the month to the first Wednesday of the month.

The change was made because two top administrators are working toward graduate degrees and they have classes on Thursdays for the next four years.

Board member Carol Bachofner sharply criticized the unilateral action of the chair.

“We are not a board of one person. This was entirely insulting to the board and me personally,” Bachofner said.

She said if such a unilateral decision is made again, she would not stay on the board.

Andrews apologized for not consulting the board but felt that it was important for the two administrators to be at the board meetings. The board then voted to hold the meetings on Wednesdays with Bachofner opposed.