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The first Lee High School students get off the first bus to arrive for the first day of school for the EBR school system on Wednesday August 10, 2016.

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG

The EPA is giving the East Baton Rouge Parish school system $773,000 to replace 30 of its diesel school buses over the next two years with more eco-friendly propane-powered buses.

The school system learned in early October that it had won the grant, which is coming from the federal agency’s National Clean Diesel Funding Assistance Program. The grant was presented to the School Board on Thursday and the board is expected to approve it at its Nov. 7 meeting

The $773,000 represents roughly 25 percent of the estimated $2.8 million cost of the buses. The school system will cover the rest.

The shift from diesel to propane is expected to improve air quality by lowering some air pollutants as well as emitting fewer greenhouse gases.

“(The Department of) Transportation is committed to moving in that direction,” said Pat Friedrich, district grants writer. “(Propane) is clean, it’s quiet, and you don’t get that exhaust when you drive through the community that gets into the children’s lungs.”

The school system plans to purchase 15 propane buses for the 2017-18 school year and 15 more for the 2018-19 school year. Friedrich said the Transportation Department already has 10 propane buses on the road.

The 30 buses replaced as part of the Environmental Protection Agency grant can be no older than the model year 1994. In order to accelerate air quality gains, Friedrich said, EPA wants to get old buses off the road but not necessarily the oldest in school bus fleets, buses that will have to replaced anyway.

The school system has more than 550 buses in its fleet. After the flood, it bought 68 new buses to replace ones that had been flood damaged.

Also on Thursday, the School Board tentatively approved a calendar for the 2017-18 school year. The calendar will come up for final approval on Nov. 17. The proposed calendar calls for teachers to start work Aug. 3 and students to arrive Aug. 9. The last day of school for students would be May 22, 2018 and the last day for teachers the following day.

Follow Charles Lussier on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier