Cherry Hill Schools unveil long-term sustainability plan

After months of meetings, discussions and brainstorming, Cherry Hill Public Schools took a large step in making the district more sustainable at last night’s Board of Education meeting.

A group of 20 students, teachers, school administrators and community members presented a sustainability plan to the school board. The plan outlined a vision and three goals for the district to improve its sustainability in the next three years, putting it in line with the township and other districts in the region.

Lori Braunstein, the president of Sustainable Cherry Hill, has been a part of the process since it began last fall and said the unveiling of the plans comes after lots of hard work.

“This was not always an easy process, but really the group and (Superintendent Maureen Reusche) were dedicated to making everyone’s viewpoints heard.”

The team’s presentation started with a vision statement that emphasized the importance of the school district’s role in educating students about sustainability and setting an example for others in the community.

This led into three general goals for the school district, including creating a shared understanding about sustainability through education, creating more green spaces within the district and using natural resources to better the district’s impact on the environment.

The goals were formed after the green team gathered information over the course of a few months and shared their ideas on what direction the district should be heading in terms of sustainability.

“The group got together in large and small groups and crafted the goals and actions and results from that information into the plan,” Braunstein said.

The process of compiling the plan was a long one. Because the team was so varied, and some members were not as knowledgeable about sustainability, there were countless meetings and conversations held.

Braunstein emphasized the importance of having people who were new to sustainability on the team to draw a direct connection with the school district.

“Others who were newer to the process were involved because they care about education and the district,” she said.

The school district hasn’t jumped heavily into details about the specific programs taking hold district-wide. Braunstein said a variety of ideas were tossed around and will be tested over the next few years.

“A unique part of this plan is it’s very ambitious, but we can’t do everything at once,” she said. “So we’re looking to do pilot programs in the school.”

The pilot programs will each delve into a different form of sustainability. One school may look at improving stormwater management, another could focus on evaluating air quality and a third could try a program with having kids walk to school.

While the plan itself made reference to district-wide goals, Braunstein said the impact will be felt at each school and its surrounding community.

“We’re empowering the individual schools,” she said. “We’re trying to connect the schools to what the community is doing and what the township is doing.”

More specific information on sustainability programs will be unveiled in the future. For the school district itself, this first sustainability plan is just the beginning.

“We are recognizing this is a work in progress,” Braunstein said. “We’re laying the foundation that this is a long-range process. We’re looking to implement this plan through June of 2017.”

CHSchools