Orlando Schools… Magnets, Mufflers And More

Every school district must strive for excellence. Orlando Schools are no exception. From Magnet Schools to new bus mufflers, from backpacks to free or reduced lunches, the Orlando Schools system is working to continuously improve itself.

BACKPACKS: The S.T.A.R.S. program (Supplies To Assist Our Students) is the only program that provides backpacks and basic school supplies to elementary, middle and high school students in Orlando Public Schools in West Orange County. Students will have the tools they need the first day of school. The goal of S.T.A.R.S. is to coordinate community based and individual efforts to efficiently and effectively assist Orlando Schools students in need so every child who needs a backpack gets one.

FREE/REDUCED LUNCHES: The Orlando Schools district is accepting applications from families who want to qualify for free or reduced-price meals for their children.

Applications are available at all schools. Orlando Schools families must complete the application and return it to the school their child will attend. For more than one child, one application may be used for all, and it may be returned to any school one of the children will attend. To qualify, families must be at 200% below the poverty level.

MAGNET SCHOOLS: Magnet programs have been established at Orlando Schools elementary, middle and high schools to provide an opportunity for students to engage in intensive study in specific areas. Orlando Schools magnet programs offer the opportunity for students to discover their talents and explore their interests while focusing on strong academic excellence. The programs are designated to attract students from across the district with transportation provided for elementary and middle school students, who reside in specified areas.

Orlando Schools grades 9-12 magnet programs provide unique personalized learning communities. These programs of study are aimed at increasing student achievement and permit a student to focus on interest, talents or career goals. Middle and elementary magnet programs in Orlando Schools provide students with the opportunity to participate in challenging experiences that engage them in learning.

MUFFLERS: An ambitious attempt across the nation to remove nasty and lethal ingredients from diesel exhaust has taken aim at the tailpipes of Orlando Schools buses. The original mufflers on 90 buses have been replaced in recent weeks with a type that incinerates a portion of pollutants. That's good for students, motorists and pedestrians who breathe fumes from those buses. Dirty diesel exhaust has been linked to illnesses such as bronchitis, asthma and cancer. Environmental improvements for other school buses will come gradually because of cost and the long lives of diesel engines.

Nearly 1,300 school buses serving Orlando Schools still don't have the devices, called "diesel-oxidation catalysts," which cost about $1,000 each.

"I wish we could get more," said Steve Huckeba, senior administrator of Orlando Schools system operations. "[but] We can't take education dollars to do that."

Orlando Schools are able to count on enough funding to replace about 10 percent of its fleet each year. Even at that rate, a lot of relatively dirty buses will remain on the road for a long time.

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