RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - The national nonprofit Propane Education & Research Council surprised teachers at Lemmon Valley Elementary School Tuesday with a $5,000 donation. It says it's in recognition of the Washoe County School District’s efforts to improve students’ health and safety by adding propane buses to their school transportation fleet. The donation is part of PERC’s nationwide campaign to "educate parents, teachers, and school officials about the benefits of using an alternative fuel like propane."
“Propane school buses are the clean, quiet, and safe alternative to older diesel buses, and Washoe County is a great example of the success a school district can enjoy after transitioning to propane school buses,” said Jesse Marcus, senior programs manager at PERC. “Plus, propane buses cost less over the life of the bus, so school districts can spend more of its operating budget on classroom programs.”
The $5,000 donation will be evenly split between all the Lemmon Valley Elementary teachers, who will be able to buy classroom supplies through the nonprofit AdoptAClassroom.org’s online shopping site.
Washoe County added 35 Blue Bird Propane Vision Type C buses and 12 Micro Bird Type A buses in 2013 as part of the district’s efforts to use more environmentally-friendly fuels. Nevada requires that government fleets containing 50 or more vehicles must use alternative fuel. Along with running 15 percent of its total fleet on propane autogas, the district uses 281 biodiesel buses.
“There are so many advantages to using propane in our buses,” said WCSD Transportation Director Rick Martin. “The Washoe County School District is currently saving some $80,000 annually, and we anticipate that savings to increase, so it’s much more cost-effective. It is also better for the environment and helps keep our air clean. We will be converting more of our fleet to propane as we purchase new buses. We have found propane to be a reliable and cost efficient resource for our district and will continue to look to incorporate it in other capacities in our district fleet for the future.”
Washoe County officials say they also save an average of $24 per each oil change every 5,000 miles. With an attendance area that spans 6,325 miles, the district says savings add up quickly. As the second-largest school district in the state, Washoe County transports about 18,400 students daily.
The district says clean fuel offers advantages to students, too. In a release, the district says, "Because propane buses are quiet, students only need to use their indoor voices to be heard. With less noise from students, drivers can hear when someone is getting bullied, or if an emergency vehicle is nearing the bus."
"Propane buses also emit fewer greenhouse gases and carbon monoxide, making the air at bus stops better for students. The World Health Organization classifies diesel exhaust as a carcinogen, and the chemicals it contains can have both short- and long-term health effects on children and drivers, from aggravated asthma to respiratory illnesses."
“The quiet ride and cleaner air are appreciated by both students and drivers,” said WCSD Superintendent Traci Davis. “The health of our students and staff is a high priority for all of us, and this is an important part of that commitment.”
According to the district, schools in 47 states are operating almost 11,000 propane school buses. Twenty of the top 25 designated market areas and four of the 10 largest school districts in the country are using them. Since 2012, propane school bus sales have increased by 436 percent. The trend prompted PERC to launch its awareness campaign to teach communities about the benefits of propane-powered transportation. The council has partnered with AdoptAClassroom.org to donate $55,000 nationwide to teachers at schools adopting propane buses in the last two years.