Three Essex County schools receive grants for greener classrooms

ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — Forty-two New Jersey public schools and districts selected to receive Sustainable Jersey for Schools grants funded by the New Jersey Education Association. Twelve $10,000 grants and thirty $2,000 grants were distributed to support a variety of projects including hydroponic garden towers, outdoor classrooms, school gardens, water bottle refilling stations, school wellness programs, cafeteria composting, student green team capacity building and more.

In Essex County, Jefferson Elementary School in Caldwell-West Caldwell received $2,000 for its Sustainability Mentors Program; Edgemont Montessori Elementary School in Montclair received $2,000 for its outdoor learning classroom; and Roosevelt Middle School in West Orange received $2,000 for a student-composting program.

With this contribution NJEA has provided $1.25 million to support a sustainable future for children across the state through the Sustainable Jersey for Schools program. 

“It is our responsibility to care for our planet, protecting it, making sure that the ways in which we interact with it are sustainable,” NJEA Vice President Sean M. Spiller said. “As educators, we bear a heavier mantle of responsibility because not only do we need to care for our own footprint but educate our students and communities to do the same — to become engaged citizens, global leaders in saving and protecting our planet. NJEA is honored to continue our work with Sustainable Jersey as we direct resources into our schools that will support these innovative programs.” 

In addition to grant funding, NJEA supports Sustainable Jersey for Schools as a program underwriter.

“These grants encourage our schools and districts to foster innovative sustainability initiatives that make their schools better stewards in their communities,” Sustainable Jersey Executive Director Randall Solomon said. “Sustainable Jersey for Schools grants catalyze school-centered sustainability programs and support the creative superintendents, principals, teachers, students and parents who are leading them.” 

Proposals were judged by an independent Blue-Ribbon Selection Committee. The Sustainable Jersey for Schools grants are intended to help school districts and schools make progress toward a sustainable future in general, and specifically toward Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification.

“The Caldwell-West Caldwell School District is delighted to be partnering with Sustainable Jersey for Schools on this grant project,” CWCSD Superintendent James Heinegg said “Sustainability has been defined as the principle of ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.’ This must be a fundamental priority for all schools, as our entire purpose has to do with ensuring bright prospects for our students’ futures. We are grateful to Sustainable Jersey for Schools and the NJEA for their support in this vital work.”

“We are honored to receive this Sustainable Jersey for Schools grant,” Edgemont Principal Jeff Freeman said. “With this funding, we will be able to begin to construct an outdoor learning environment that is aligned with Edgemont Montessori’s environmental curriculum and with the principles of Dr. Maria Montessori. We appreciate the support from Sustainable Jersey for Schools and NJEA and are very excited to work with them. These funds, along with the hard work and dedication of our stakeholders will make it possible to achieve an environmentally responsible school and a sustainable future for our students.”

“The Environmental Activism Club at Roosevelt Middle School will be launching a student-led composting program as a component of our eighth-grade science unit on human impact on the environment,” RMS Principal Lionel Hush said. “Students will be working to educate our community on the importance of composting and reducing waste in our school. The funds from this grant will be used to purchase the building materials for the compost bins and collection containers for the cafeteria. We greatly appreciate Sustainable Jersey for Schools for providing the means to initiate our goals to reduce waste at Roosevelt Middle School, increase food waste awareness in our students and increase awareness of the origins of our food through our student-led gardening program. Thank you for investing in our community.”