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.
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.
"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."
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.
Bellerose Avenue Elementary School's PTA was among 32 groups nationwide to receive $1,897 last month for 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.
Young museum guides
More than a dozen students from Jack Abrams and Woodhull intermediate schools recently served as docents during class trips to the Heckscher Museum of Art in Huntington. One child from each fifth-grade art class attended four training sessions to learn about the museum's art in preparation for the tours.
Partners in Science
Nearly 50 students and teachers from seven Suffolk County districts recently learned about the variety of research material available through Partners in Science, a program held at Brookhaven National Laboratory in conjunction with Eastern Suffolk BOCES. During a visit, BNL workers demonstrated techniques to assess data through electronic resources and hosted a tour of New York Blue, one of the world's fastest supercomputers. Participating districts were Hauppauge, Islip, Patchogue-Medford, Riverhead, Southampton and Westhampton Beach.
School 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.