School buses already make up the largest share of mass transportation in the U.S. and are the safest mode of transportation to and from school. This year, however, the yellow bus is getting an upgrade. More than 500,000 students will ride a school bus powered by the alternative fuel propane this back-to-school season.
“Diesel has long been the standard in school transportation, but for districts that want to reduce harmful emissions, save money and create a safer, healthier ride, propane is an excellent alternative,” says Roy Willis, Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) President and CEO.
Recognizing these benefits, schools across 45 states – a total of more than 7,000 buses – have transitioned to propane. The trend prompted PERC to start a campaign to teach communities about the benefits of propane-powered transportation. The council is partnering with journalist and former teacher Jenna Bush Hager and the nonprofit Adopt a Classroom to donate more than $30,000 to teachers at schools adopting propane buses.
“It’s clear when you talk to school administrators and transportation departments that they are saving more than just dollars and cents by going with propane buses,” says Hager. “The switch is improving their school as a whole and giving them the opportunity to invest in more teachers or school programs.”
PERC’s donation will benefit teachers at seven schools this fall, including Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School in Massachusetts; Kyrene Monte Vista in Arizona; Broward Education Foundation in Florida; Wilkes Elementary in Oregon; Five Star Education Foundation in Colorado; St. Francis Elementary in Minnesota; and Friendswood Jr. High in Texas.
Donations began on September 30 with an event at Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School in Boston. Hager surprised teachers at the school and announced that they would receive a total of $10,000 from PERC to purchase supplies for their classroom. Boston Public Schools is the first district in the city to switch from diesel to propane buses.
The transition from diesel to propane buses has been reported in 20 of the top 25 designated market areas, and four of the 10 largest school districts in the country are using them. Among the health and safety advantages of propane buses is that they are quieter than diesel and they reduce exposure to diesel exhaust, which the World Health Organization classifies as a carcinogen.
“As a former teacher and parent, I know that the school day begins and ends on the bus,” Hager says. “When we give our kids a safer, healthier start to the day, it can improve their entire experience in the classroom and at home, too.”