Paton-Churdan soon to get propane bus

Local schools back in session this week


CHURDAN — Buses began rolling through the Paton-Churdan school district Wednesday as students returned to school.

But starting Oct. 1, one of those bright yellow buses will have a new kind of motor under its hood.

The district purchased a propane school bus to test out this year, with plans to purchase more for its four-bus fleet if its energy savings and environmental-friendly promises pan out, said principal Annie Smith.

The bus cost the district roughly $90,000 — about $5,200 more than a comparable new diesel bus, said transportation director Jake Smith. It will save the district $5,800 in fuel in the first year alone, as well as saving oil costs because propane burns cleaner than diesel, he added.

The propane bus will not need to be plugged in at night, nor will it need to idle half an hour before it can be driven on cold mornings, Jake Smith said.

The district will rent a fueling station for the bus, which will cost between $300 and $400 per year. Its roughly 265-mile range will allow the bus to travel to and from any district at which its teams are scheduled to play without having to refuel on the way.

The bus will also run more quietly — allowing the drivers to pay more attention to the children on the bus, Jake Smith said.

The district will also continue to pursue its goals to create an individual education plan for each of its 188 K-12 students, Annie Smith said.

In many districts, a personalized education plan is only crafted for special education students. The goal of the plans is to connect the students, parent and teacher to push the student to reach their highest expectations, she said.

Paton-Churdan will welcome 27 students to its prekindergarten program. The 2014-15 school year marks the fifth in a row that the district has increased enrollment.

The district will also continue to offer its 3-year-old preschool program this year. The cost is $60 per month for two afternoons per week, but a fundraising committee is working to collect enough money to provide the 3-year-old program free of charge, Annie Smith said.

Paton-Churdan also welcomes six new staff members this year: Michelle Paulsen, resource room; Lauren King, third grade; Kendra Wilke, band and vocal music; Kristen Jackson, science; James Helms, custodian and bus driver; Mitchell Lewis, business manager; and Lindsey Klocke, curriculum and professional development.

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