Lower Merion School District is among the 14 nationwide honorees of the first-ever U.S. Department of Education (USDE) Green Ribbon Schools District Sustainability Award. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, along with the Chair of White House Council on Environmental Quality Nancy Sutley and Acting Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Bob Persiacepe, announced the winners during a Tuesday morning press event in Washington, DC. The honored districts were selected for their exemplary efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, promote better health, and ensure effective environmental education, including civics, STEM and green career pathways. In addition, 64 schools were announced as 2013 Green Ribbon schools.
"Today's honorees are modeling a comprehensive approach to being green," said Secretary Duncan. "They are demonstrating ways schools can simultaneously cut costs; improve health, performance and equity; and provide an education geared toward the jobs of the future. In fact, the selected districts are saving millions of dollars as a result of their greening efforts. And the great thing is that the resources these honorees are using are available for free to all schools."
USDE highlighted the District's LEED-certified facilities, extensive green cleaning program, pioneering use of alternative fuels and robust K-12 environmental education programs in the selection process.
Since 1995, LMSD has been a leader in the use of alternative fuels in transportation. As the first school district in Pennsylvania to add compressed natural gas (CNG) to its fleet, LMSD today boasts the largest fleet of CNG school buses on the East Coast. The District has won numerous national awards for its use of "green fuels" in transportation and was recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy as "Pennsylvania's primary success story for alternative fuels."
The District's recent high school modernization projects incorporated the use of energy-saving and cost-cutting technologies, strategies and best practices. LMSD recently received a check for $141,000 from PECO for participation in the Smart Ideas/Smart Construction Initiative, representing savings realized through the buildings' energy-efficient designs. Both high schools conserve energy by more than 20% above code through features like high-efficiency lighting and improved resource management systems.
Throughout their schooling, LMSD students engage in a variety of learning opportunities related to environmental sustainability. At the elementary level, students develop a first-hand appreciation of the natural world during community-based learning programs like Project CHANGE. Middle school students participate in science design challenges, developing innovative solutions to relevant, real-world environmental problems. At the high school level, students explore sustainability and environmental science through an array of AP, honors, and college prep offerings. These courses make use of unique on-campus resources like greenhouses, solar panels, organic gardens and wetlands to further students' understanding and appreciation of sustainability concepts. Many students choose to extend their learning beyond the school day, through environmental clubs, science teams and service projects.
Student and staff health is the primary concern of LMSD's comprehensive, nationally-recognized Green Cleaning Program. More than 80% of the annual cleaning budget is earmarked for the most environmentally-friendly or environmentally-preferable alternatives, applied using innovative best-practices to improve overall indoor air quality; reduce exposure to harmful contaminants; reduce particle, chemical and moisture residue from cleaning; and to minimize waste and impact on the environment.
"Preparing students for success in the 21st century economy begins in our schools. The schools and districts being honored today are modeling the best practices in reducing environmental impact and cutting costs, creating a healthier learning environment, and providing students with an education geared toward the jobs of the future," said Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Nancy Sutley.
The U.S. Department of Education is looking forward to a third year of the program, and will be publishing updated competition criteria this summer, once again working closely with participating states, who nominate both schools and districts to the federal agency. State education agencies are encouraged to indicate their intent to nominate schools and districts within their jurisdiction in 2014 by August 1, 2013.
"This is a wonderful honor that reflects our community's deep commitment to environmental sustainability," said LMSD Superintendent Dr. Christopher McGinley. "We view sustainability as a core responsibility of the school system and an essential element of our strategic plan. As we prepare students for a successful future, we must do all we can to ensure that future includes a clean, healthy, thriving environment. "