Keeping Polk County Schools students safe on their way to and from school is the daily goal for transportation director Lambert Ridings.

With the county positioned as one of the entrances to the Blue Ridge Mountains, Ridings is also sensitive to environmental concerns and maintaining the beautiful area that those students call home.

Those dual priorities helped convince Ridings to apply for funds offered through the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Grant program. The grants are designed to help support projects to reduce air pollution from mobile sources.

Chosen as one of three grant recipients this year by the state Division of Air Quality, Polk County Schools received $71,421 to retrofit five school buses with diesel patriculate filters. Ridings said that district workers were actually able to update six buses to use the new filters.

“The diesel particulate filters cut down on emissions and reduce the smell of the fumes from the buses,” Ridings said. “There’s not nearly as much smell from the exhaust fumes and the buses are more environmentally friendly.”

With the filters, high-quality Hug Engineering Mobiclean R diesel particulate filters, the buses are able to meet newer standards for emissions, providing both a cleaner environment for students on the buses as well as technicians who service the buses in the district garage.

“We’re one of the gateways to the Blue Ridge Mountains, and we’ve got TIEC (Tryon International Equestrian Center) and a large world event coming to the area (the 2018 World Equestrian Games),” Ridings said. “We want to do our part to help the environment in the area.”