BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Bloomfield School District science supervisor Lou Cappello presented the Sustainable Jersey Certification results to the Bloomfield Board of Education and district administrators at the BOE meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 21, saying that schools in the district have achieved the bronze level certification. The district as a whole does not apply to be certified; individual schools apply through the district for their own certifications. All 11 schools in the district received the certification.
The program is for preschool through high school in public schools in the state and provides guidance, support and recognition to schools that implement steps in sustainability and in preparing students for the future.
“The idea is to get our school and community to be proactive, when it comes to facing challenges in sustainability and other areas as well,” Cappello said at the meeting. “Bronze certification means that a school has made a commitment to sustainability and has succeeded in implementing first steps.”
There is also a silver certification, which schools can obtain when they show they have made significant progress. Since this was the first year schools in Bloomfield applied, they applied for the lower-level bronze certification. To obtain the bronze certification, the school has to establish a green team, implement two of 14 priority actions, complete actions in six of 27 categories and receive 150 points in the scoring system.
“Last spring, we did online professional development that was run by people from our own community,” Cappello said, when describing how the Bloomfield schools received the certification. “We heard about pollinator gardens, we got sustainability training and learned more about urban gardening and how climate impacts urban areas, and we learned a lot about recycling. The teachers got a lot out of that, and we’re hoping to put some of it in action moving forward.”
Other categories the schools in the district received points toward the certification for include promoting locally grown foods, using green cleaning supplies and green cleaning training programs.
“Our custodians attend training sessions so that they are using materials properly,” Cappello said. The schools also received points for purchasing green cleaning supplies.
In total, the Bloomfield schools received points toward bronze certification in 14 different categories. Most are under the sustainability umbrella, but there are several categories that are not, such as student participation in the arts and social emotional learning.
“You can see that there are other areas, not just related to sustainability, that Sustainable Jersey asks you to show what you’re doing, and there are valid reasons for that,” Cappello said. “These are all things that we have been doing, and to put it all together and see what came out of it is fantastic.”
Bloomfield has a districtwide Green Team, with a representative from each school and two from Bloomfield High School. There is also a student representative from BHS. Cappello, Business Administrator Vicky Guo and Assistant Superintendent Joe Fleres are also on the committee.
“Next week, we’re meeting again as a Green Team to talk about some of the things we got this professional development training on, such as recycling, pollinator gardens, urban vegetable gardens and the infusing climate change and sustainability within the curriculum,” Cappello said. “We always do a large focus around Earth Day, and we’ve also done a plastic toy drive, so those toys don’t go into landfills and instead get reused.”
BOE member Michael Heller is the board’s liaison to the Green Team and said the board passed resolutions with the intention of obtaining certification with Sustainable Jersey several years ago, in his comments at the meeting.
“It’s taken us a while to get there,” Heller said. “I think 165 points is nothing to sneeze at. It certainly is more than the 150 minimum. I look to future requests from you, in terms of board actions that we can take that benefit all 11 schools.”
The next priority, according to Cappello, after BOE member Shane Berger asked at the meeting, is to get students involved.
“They can get involved with gardening in their schools and get involved with the recycling program in their schools,” Cappello said. “That’s our next focus: to teach kids that it’s important to reuse instead of throw out.”
The teachers who are on the Green Team said they are enthusiastic about expanding the program to involve their students more.
“They want to really have an impact on our community and the environment,” Cappello said. “They bring all of these ideas and get very excited about that, and I’m excited to see what comes of it.”