BROWARD (CBSMiami) – Just one more weekend of summer left, meaning students will be back in the classroom—and some back on the bus—come Monday morning.

Some Broward students, who use the bus, may notice a much quieter ride to school for the new school year.

Broward County Public Schools, the sixth largest public school system in the United States and the second largest in the state, will introduce 98 brand new propane-fueled buses.

The fleet of propane buses for the school district, which has over 260,000 students, is the largest such purchase in the nation’s history, according to the district.

According to the United States Department of Energy, propane is a domestically produced, clean-burning fuel. Using propane for a vehicle increases energy security, provides convenience and performance benefits, and improves public health and the environment.

Propane is nontoxic, nonpoisonous, and insoluble in water, the U.S. Department of Energy reports. Compared with vehicles fueled by conventional diesel and gasoline, propane vehicles can produce lower amounts of some harmful air pollutants and greenhouse gases, depending on vehicle type, drive cycle, and engine calibration

“It’s a smoother ride, a safer ride and there is air conditioning so students can have a much more comfortable ride to school and home,” said bus driver Lisa Atkins.

Propane buses aren’t the only thing new.

Another addition for the 2014-2014 school year is that debate will now be offered in every high school and all middle schools.

Click here to WATCH CBS4’s Joan Murray’s report

Middle school athletics are back with the addition of of volleyball and flag football.

Scholastic chess is being added to second and third grade classes.

High school students will be able to take advanced computer science classes.

The district is also adding ‘three’ K-8 schools.  That means some students will no longer attend a middle school but stay in their elementary school grades six through eight.

Superintendent Robert Runcie tells CBS 4 that he expects more schools to go toward the K-8 model in the coming years although some middle schools will remain.

The biggest change however is the end of the controversial FCAT testing system.

Beginning in the Spring of 2015 students will begin a new state devised testing system to prove they are making the grade.

“The FCAT was about facts.  The new world is can you apply what you’ve learned to solve real world problems,” explains Runcie.

The Superintendent who is now making three full years with the District (his contract was extended to 2019) says one of his top priorities is to get the $800 million dollar bond issue passed in November that will be used to renovate older schools in disrepair and build real classrooms to replace portables in the overcrowded newer schools.

“We’re going to have a great school year.  I welcome back all students, teachers, and support staff,” said Runcie.

Runcie plans to visit a half dozen schools on Monday and then hold a news conference Monday afternoon to give an overview of how the first day went.


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