VP Harris visits Meridian to launch Clean School Bus program


Eva Williams

Vice President Kamala Harris visited Meridian with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan and Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA).

Sam Mostow and Eva Williams

Vice President Kamala Harris and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan visited Meridian on Friday to launch the administration’s $500 million Clean School Bus program. 

Harris and Regan were joined by White House Infrastructure Implementation Coordinator Mitch Landrieu, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), and National Education Association President Rebecca Pringle, who all spoke to about one hundred seated in the Meridian lobby. The crowd included EPA members, local community officials, and environmental activists of a variety of groups. Head of Secondary Schools Valerie Hardy and eighth grader Marisa Soletino also spoke at the event, the latter of whom introduced the vice president.

The Clean School Bus program is an EPA initiative that allows school districts to apply for federal funding to invest in electric school buses, which is a part of a $5 billion plan over the next five years.

“[This will be] transformative for the school districts that will be able to use the money that they would have had to spend filling up the buses with gas to instead hire more teachers, to raise salaries or to renovate classrooms — and renovate those classrooms not at this school, but at many schools around the country that are in desperate need of repair,” Harris said.

Before Harris’ remarks, she spoke with Meridian and Henderson students and teachers who take part in sustainability efforts outside the Meridian front entrance, with three electric school buses in the backdrop. Harris even boarded one of the buses and spoke with students sitting on it.

“We have this great opportunity here at this school, and being such an open building, we also have geothermal,” junior Nik Johnson said to Harris. “This huge new advance in technology is a great time to bring electric buses. Being so environmentally conscious is better for the school. I think having that learning opportunity has an environmental impact on students as well. We can teach a new generation on how to use fantastic new tools.”

Environmental science teacher Carey Pollack was outside with Harris and was impressed by the vice president’s curiosity. 

“[Harris] was just so engaging,” Pollack said. “She was clearly invested. She had questions for us and she reiterated her thoughts on what we were saying and we were just really impressed with that part of it. She was great with the kids and asked them what she needed to know.”

Before the vice president spoke to the audience within Meridian, Hardy expressed the school system’s commitment to sustainability, noting its Sustainability Academy, which will launch during the 2022-23 school year, and how seventh graders wrote persuasive essays about whether or not the school system should invest in electric school buses.

“This school is a representation of our nation’s path forward,” Hardy said.

Afterwards, Harris formally launched the Clean School Bus program. Her remarks centered around the future of electric vehicles and the administration’s efforts to support them.

“The future is not inevitable,” she said. “We have to build it together.”

FCCPS received $530,000 from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust to purchase two electric school buses, and a congressional earmark for another one, all of which will arrive before the 2022-23 school year. Falls Church was one of 19 school districts in Virginia to receive this funding and hopes to shift to an entirely electric school bus fleet over the next decade.

“What stood out for me about today’s event was a really awesome focus on sustainable energy and the idea of how we can transition our bus fleet to electric,” FCCPS Superintendent Peter Noonan said. “We’re on the cutting edge of that, and we really are excited to be bringing in three new electric school buses for next year.”

Click here for more photos from the day.