State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated The Athenian School and three other schools to represent California in the inaugural year of the new federal Green Ribbon Schools Program.
The other nominees are:
- Longfellow Elementary School (Long Beach Unified School District)
- Grand View Elementary School (Manhattan Beach Unified School District)
- Environmental Charter High School (Lawndale)
“Our state has always been a leader in environmental protection, and these four schools are proof positive that California’s schools are still leading the way,” Torlakson said in a press release. “As a science teacher, it is heartening to see how these schools are weaving sound environmental practices into the lessons in their classrooms and the daily life of their campuses. They are schools of the future, in the here and now. I am sure they will more than hold their own in this exciting new national competition.”
The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) unveiled the Green Ribbon Schools Program in September. The California Department of Education collaborated with several state agencies and interested parties in developing the Green Ribbon Schools award application. The award criteria was intended to focus on measurable outcomes wherever possible, and based on a comprehensive approach incorporating environmental learning with maximizing positive environmental and health impacts.
Each state was allowed to submit up to four nominees, one of which must be a private school. The California Association of Private School Organizations reviewed the nine private school applications and determined the private school nominee. If a state submits more than one public school, one must be a school with at least 40 percent of their students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Some 52 California schools applied for one of programs. All applicants underwent a rigorous review before the four finalists were selected:
- Environmental Charter High School, which has won numerous environmental awards, is called a “living campus” because 70 varieties of fruits and vegetables are raised at the school. The students, of which nearly 80 percent come from disadvantaged backgrounds, have constructed a rainwater capture system that supplies water to the grounds. Last month, the school unveiled its new solar greenhouse with a rooftop solar energy system and a solar-powered water pump to irrigate plants inside.
- Longfellow Elementary School also has received many green awards, the latest of which is from the 2011-12 California K-12 School Recycling Challenge. The school has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 34 percent with everyday changes in behavior such as turning off all unneeded electrical equipment and lowering the thermostat. Any leftover “cold” food like milk or fruit from the cafeteria is collected daily and donated to the local food bank. In addition, 100 percent of its landscaping is considered water-efficient or regionally appropriate and the school produces its own compost.
- Grand View Elementary School participates in Grades of Green Schools, Growing Great Schools, and is considered a “dark green” school because of its significant commitment to protect the environment. The school has reduced its lunch trash from 40 bags to two; and uses only certified green cleaning products. The school urges students to walk or bike to school and has established “Walk to School Wednesdays” with a “Walking School Bus” map that pinpoints locations where students can meet along the route and walk together.
- The Athenian School has won many awards, including the Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Power Partner Recognition. The school receives 65 percent of its electrical power from an array of solar panels the school installed on a hillside. About 60 percent of Athenian’s waste is recycled content. And nearly two million gallons of water have been saved annually with the installation of an all-weather sports field with recycled infill.
The applications of the four nominees are being forwarded today to the USDE for award consideration. The winners will be announced on Earth Day, April 22, 2012.
“We are extremely proud of our schools,” Torlakson said, “and are hopeful that all nominees will be awarded so they will be able to serve as models to emulate around the nation.”
For more information on the USDE Green Ribbon Schools Program, please visit the CDE Web site at http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/fa/sf/greenribbonprog.asp.
-California Department of Education