Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 26 August 2011 00:00
The West Hempstead School District is taking steps to help its students and staff members become more environmentally aware by forming its Green Team beginning in September. The three main goals of the Green Team will be to teach sustainability, nurture the innate connection with nature, and model the sustainable behaviors that society finds it needs more and more. The district will be meeting in September to finalize its goals.
These goals can be achieved through many activities and changes in practice from involving more individuals in monitoring energy use to finding ways to weave environmental awareness into curricula, according to deputy superintendent Richard Cunningham.
At that meeting, the district will begin to develop a broader set of goals and establish regular meeting dates. The district will also begin to develop a work plan and timelines.
West Hempstead is the first school district in New York State to implement dimmable LED lights, according to Cunningham and is one of the leading districts in Nassau County in recycling paper. Furthermore, the district has had green movements in place for quite some time.
After a strategic council committee meeting, in which district teacher Joe Bonasia presented theories on green movements within the district, the board of education and administration officials realized it already had similar plans in place. Cunningham said he met with Bonasia after the meeting in January and various times throughout the summer to brainstorm ideas. He stated further that community members are inquiring about ideas for a sustainable culture.
In speaking with Bonasia, Cunningham and district officials “got the ball rolling” on the Green Team initiative.
“People are interested in gardening, and developing a more sustainable culture,” he said. “The general idea here is to create environmentally friendly ways to conserve energy. There are a lot of ideas out there that the community can bring to us and looking at what our real mission is, which is to educate students.”
In getting the students involved, Cunningham said since they are the mainstays of energy use in the district, students need to be reminded of energy use and “bring that knowledge home to be discussed.”
According to Cunningham, the district wants to cultivate programs that already have “green-type” themes. The district is in exploratory stages of school-based gardening and analyzing the potential of serving the products of those gardens in cafeterias. An unknown amount of district schools are interested in this concept.
“”There are a few schools that want to do this,” Cunningham stated. “We’re still ironing out the kinks with school-based gardening. We’d also like to incorporate that into our science and health curricula.”
District custodians have reached out to administrators and expressed interest in recycling programs, and “even changing building use, you know, like during the winter, people come in early to use our buildings, but perhaps with their help we can change their use so we can use less energy starting up the building in the morning,” Cunningham said.
He concluded that this initiative is not meant to be “top-down” meaning orders coming from administration and letting the work be delegated as it is implemented, but a “fair and balanced approach to getting everyone on the same page and keep this program that continues to be ongoing and gather interest and momentum in our community.”
The district would like to make this initiative a permanent piece of West Hempstead’s future plans going forward. More will be known at the Green Team’s kickoff meeting on Sept. 14 at 7:30 p.m. in the Middle School Cafeteria for all interested community members.