Last May, Cherry Hill Public Schools started a long-term sustainability plan. At last week’s Board of Education meeting, public information officer Barbara Wilson gave a presentation on what the school district has accomplished over the past year in regard to sustainability.
“This whole process is truly a team effort throughout the district. We had very enthusiastic involvement from students, principals, teachers, support staff, administration and community members. Since fall 2014, the commitment to and enthusiasm for sustainability has continued to grow. Our excitement is not only about becoming Sustainable Jersey for Schools certified, but about the integration of sustainability in all that we do,” Wilson said.
Rolled out in May 2014, CHPS’ sustainability plan is to be implemented over a three-year period through June 2017. It will be revenue neutral and reflect the school district’s mission statement and board goals.
Goal 1 of that plan is to create a shared understanding and commitment toward contributing to sustainability through teaching, learning and actions. An example of that is the Environmental Club at Cherry Hill High School West planted wild flowers in the area toward the back of the newer auditorium, which it learned helps provide a better environment for plants and animals, as well as people.
Goal 2 is to create green and healthy spaces within and outside of the school. An example of this goal is students from the Alternative High School planted a vegetable garden in the courtyard of the Malberg Building, the produce from which will be donated to the Cherry Hill Pantry.
Goal 3 is to use natural resources responsibly to reduce environmental impact and costs. For this goal, Cherry Hill High School East put a water refill station in the cafeteria, saving tens of thousands of water bottles.
From these various projects, the district has discovered a framework to help it along with the process. That framework is Sustainable Jersey for Schools, a certification program for New Jersey public schools that want to go green, conserve resources and take steps to create a brighter future.
Sustainable Jersey for Schools was conceived in 2013 from Sustainable New Jersey and the New Jersey School Boards Association, which announced that they wanted to create a voluntary sustainability certification program designed for public school districts and public charter schools.
As the district reviewed the program, it looked into what it got from the sustainability plan. From this program, it would receive a certificate for its hard work, gain events and training for students, teachers and administrators, and receive grants and resources to help it reach all of its goals.
All 19 of the district’s schools are registered with Sustainable Jersey for Schools and are working toward becoming certified.
The next steps the schools will take are to submit narratives and documents of actions to Sustainable Jersey for Schools. Each successfully completed action earns each applicant points, which are accumulated into two levels of certification — Bronze at 150 points and Silver at 350 points.
Beyond the certification, the schools will continue to communicate green achievements and initiatives through a variety of medium. The district is developing online digital opportunities between schools for sharing ideas and strategies, exploring technology resources that offer professional development platforms and continuing to communicate the sustainable progress through multiple platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, newsletters and more.
“So in the end, what we are aiming for is that sustainability runs through all that we do,” Wilson said. “We look forward to doing more sustainability actions in the future.”
Lori Braunstein, president of Sustainable Cherry Hill, gave the first ever Sustainable Cherry Hill Agent for Change award to Superintendent Maureen Reusche for the school district’s efforts in sustainability. The award, also a work of art, was created out of repurposed materials and honors those who have worked to bring about a positive change through sustainability. Braunstein has been a part of the school district’s sustainability process since it began in 2014.
“There are many people here tonight who have supported us. We have really embraced this work. All of you have really contributed significantly in what we have achieved as a district. I wanted to thank Sustainable Cherry Hill… and particularly Lori for helping us move forward,” Reusche said.
In other news:
• The board approved the resolution to apply for Blended Early Learning Innovation Pilot. The grant application addresses the opportunity for the district to “design and pilot innovative blended early learning tablet-based instructional models based on the goal of improving children’s mastery of literacy and mathematics skills.” The grant begins on Sept. 1 and sends on Aug. 31, 2016.
• The public comment portion of the meeting was once again full of talk about the teachers’ contracts. Parents, teachers and students asked that an agreement be reached by the end of the school year so teachers could start the 2015–2016 year with contracts. The board and Cherry Hill Education Association were scheduled to meet on June 1 with a mediator.
• Information about the turf fields was given at the meeting. According to Vice President Elliot Roth, Mayor Chuck Cahn has taken the lead in putting together a committee for the turf fields. Since there is no new information on the turf field, the meeting scheduled for June 2 about the turf field has been postponed until more information can be provided.
• The next BOE action meeting is scheduled for June 23 at 7 p.m.