Four Essex County schools achieve sustainability certification in 2016

EWING, NJ — Sustainable Jersey for Schools announced Sept. 6 that 83 schools achieved the Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification in 2016, though many others are working toward it. The 83 schools come from 24 different school districts across 13 New Jersey counties. In two years, 118 schools have achieved Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification. A total of 509 schools and 204 school districts are participating in the program overall.

Of the 83 schools, four are located in Essex County — three of which are in the South Orange-Maplewood School District. SOMA’s Jefferson, Seth Boyden And Tuscan elementary schools, as well as Montclair’s Edgemont Elementary School, all earned bronze certification.

Sustainable Jersey for Schools is voluntary, but achieving certification is not easy. Each school that is certified at the bronze-level must submit documentation to show it has completed a balanced portfolio of the program’s sustainability actions, attaining a minimum of 150 points.

“Becoming certified with Sustainable Jersey for Schools is a significant achievement for schools and their school district,” Donna Drewes, who co-directs Sustainable Jersey with Randall Solomon, said in a press release. “We’re thrilled with the number of schools that achieved certification and we share this success with the eight partner organizations that have joined us in this effort.”

“On behalf of the entire school community, we are extremely proud of Seth Boyden, Tuscan and Jefferson elementary schools for achieving Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification,” SOMSD Superintendent of Schools John Ramos Sr. said in a second press release. “The members of our districtwide green team have been successful in meeting our commitment to being a more sustainable community. I would like to recognize and congratulate the school-based green teams made up of parents, teachers, students, administrators and staff for all of their hard work.”

The SOMSD green team was created in March 2015 and meets monthly during the school year with a mission to coordinate and plan sustainability activities across the school district and to educate students and the community about the benefits of sustainability, according to the second release. All of the schools in the district participated in the districtwide green team and the resulting increase in sustainability programs and projects was evident. Participants trace this success to collaboration. The schools worked together to complete the required sustainability actions and shared resources. Additionally, collaboration with the municipal Maplewood and South Orange green teams, which are recognized leaders in New Jersey, played an important role in developing the school district green team.

Only five schools achieved certification at the more advanced silver level; these stand-out schools include: Cape May City Elementary School in the Cape May City School District, H. Russell Swift Elementary School and Egg Harbor Township High School in Egg Harbor Township School District, Holland Township Elementary School in Holland Township School District and Reeds Road Elementary School in Galloway Township School District. Silver-level certification requires that a school reach a minimum of 350 points.

Certified schools excelled in areas such as improving energy efficiency and health and wellness, integrating sustainability into student learning and reducing waste. Randall Solomon, co-director of the Sustainable Jersey program congratulated the certified schools, said in the second release, “I commend the schools that have achieved certification for their demonstrated commitment toward the long-term goal of a sustainable New Jersey.”

“We are proud of the leadership provided by the boards of education and their superintendents, as well as the contributions of principals, teachers, education support professionals and parents, that made this important milestone a reality,” Lawrence S. Feinsod, New Jersey School Boards Association executive director, said in the first release. “We congratulate the schools on achieving Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification.”

On Oct. 25, the certified schools and school districts will be celebrated at a reception held during NJSBA Workshop 2016 in Atlantic City. Workshop 2016 will feature Sustainable Jersey for Schools sessions along with NJSBA sustainability support programs for schools.