The big yellow bus is slowly going green.
To help protect the environment, Half Hollow Hills Central School District in Dix Hills launched a pilot program last month to use an eco-friendly hybrid electric bus that gets double the mileage per gallon of traditional diesel buses. Electricity is generated by the bus itself.
Meanwhile, Long Beach and Middle Country Central school districts have been using compressed natural gas (CNG) buses in their fleets since 2004 and 2006, respectively.
The districts said they are the first on Long Island to use the energy-saving vehicles.
"Long Beach also retrofitted diesel buses with oxidation catalysts and particulate filters," said Ron Gulmi, chairman of Greater Long Island Clean Cities Coalition. "This is a model more districts could follow."
Half Hollow Hills has 80 buses and said it will evaluate the new one before deciding whether to buy more hybrids.
"It's critical to be as energy efficient as possible today," said Victor Manuel, assistant superintendent for finance and facilities at Half Hollow Hills. "I think districts with their own fleets are looking at these measures. It really depends on if districts have funding available for the initial investment."
Manuel said the district's hybrid bus cost $147,000 - compared to $118,000 for a traditional bus - but could pay for itself in five years because of reduced diesel consumption. It also cuts carbon emissions up to 90 percent, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Words rule at poetry fest
More than 100 students from Freeport, Copiague and Oceanside high schools joined forces last month for Freepoetry, Freeport's third annual poetry festival. The students participated in workshops and readings followed by performances by poets from Urbintel Productions, a Long Island-based poetry and theater troupe.
The McKenna Elementary School PTA was among 32 U.S. groups to receive $1,897 last month for its Take Your Family to School Week festivities in February. The event is designed to emphasize the link between parent involvement and student achievement. The awards are from the National PTA and funded by AXA Foundation.
Human rights initiative
In recognition of the International Day of Human Rights on Dec. 10, Mineola High School's Contemporary Issues and Human Rights classes wrote about 500 letters last month to foreign governments that are violating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The first-time project was part of Amnesty International's Global Write-a-thon.
"I think the kids really started to see how lucky they are to have freedoms of speech and assembly," said contemporary issues teacher Francine Sclafani.
Fifty-three Plainedge High School students recently spent a day attending classes and icebreaker activities with peers from Amityville in a cultural exchange program to show teens their lives are similar despite living in different ZIP codes.
Plainedge students were introduced to Amityville High School's character education initiatives like Amity Secret, which lets kids deal with difficult issues in their lives by anonymously submitting personal secrets in a box for possible publication in a year-end book.
Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK High School students Melissa Luden, Jaclyn Pinsky and Julia Wiener coordinated a workshop last month to educate the school community about the importance of entrepreneurship in a struggling economy. Speakers included Robert Meyrowitz, co-creator of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
"We want to help the public persevere through this seemingly never-ending crisis and show that success is always a possibility," said Wiener.
The event was sponsored by the school's Distributive Education Clubs of America group for marketing students, and the Long Island Capital Alliance.
Winners in press awards
Long Island high schools took home 24 awards in various categories last month at the Columbia Scholastic Press Association's 27th Gold Circle Awards, which attracted 8,000 entries from student writers nationwide. Winners included:
Commack: Alexandra Kranidis of Commack High School; East Setauket: Candice Caccavalla, Christine Doherty, Ilana Pollack, Dana Salzberg and Victoria Shay of Ward Melville High School; Mastic Beach: Enigma staff of William Floyd High School; Massapequa: Erin Boyle and Chris Ryan of Massapequa High School; Merrick: Avneet Ghuman and Rebecca Rood-Goldman of Sanford H. Calhoun High School; Oyster Bay: Chelsea Mentzinger and Christina Smiros of Oyster Bay High School; Shoreham: Vasili Kreatsoulas, Kimberly Landgrover, Matt Schembri and Jen Wynkoop of Shoreham-Wading River High School; Wantagh: Jackie Anderson, Christian Ang, Ali Bouchard, Diana Cama, Matt Campbell, Danielle Casino, Alyssa Cotto, Juli Hostetter, Allison Labita, Pamela Leuchtmann, Marissa Lucey, Emily Maresca, Tom Mastangelo, Maura O'Connel, Caitlin O'Neill and Nicole Piscopio of Wantagh High School.