An Environmental Protection Agency program is aiming to help schools across the country retire 210 aging buses, replacing them with cleaner, safer vehicles with filters that significantly cut certain types of emissions.

The Arlington, Va., school system is one of the beneficiaries of the school bus replacement rebate program and will receive $100,000 to help with the purchase of five new school buses that will hit the road in the next school year, said David McCrae, the district’s transportation director, who oversees a fleet of 154 vehicles. Buses cost an estimated $90,000 to $100,000 each.

At an event at Tuckahoe Elementary School this week, officials from the school district, the EPA and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration celebrated the program with an audience of school children who serenaded the crowd with — you guessed it — “Wheels on the Bus.”

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Chris Grundler, the director of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality, said that emissions from old school buses pose a direct threat to the health of young riders, who might be inhaling pollutants even as they ride inside the bus.

“We are trying to accelerate the turnover of older, dirty school buses,” he said. “These older diesel vehicles … present an air pollutant threat to the community as well as to students inside the bus if the school bus is older and poorly maintained.”

In 2007, the EPA changed its standards for school buses, requiring them to have special filters that can reduce some types of emissions by approximately 90 percent, Grundler said. The EPA is concerned about a particularly harmful type of pollution with particles so small they can be inhaled and lodge inside a child’s lungs.

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To get the rebate money, school districts must agree to scrap some old school buses and send them “to the school bus cemetery,” Grundler said.

The district also honored two school bus employees for their service as part of the “Love Your Bus” event. Fernando Rivas has been driving children to Tuckahoe Elementary every school day for the past three years and has “an exemplary safety record,” according to Arlington schools. Bus attendant Nakia Arnold, who has worked with students with special needs, received praise for the compassion she displays in her work, Arlington officials said.

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