Enquirer Herald

York students push district to go green

YORK -- Future schools in York will be greener thanks to students at York One Academy.

As part of Project Citizen, seventh and eighth grade students at the school researched and came up with ways for the school district to become more energy efficient.

They presented their findings to school board members at the April school board meeting telling about energy efficient appliances and other ways the district could help the environment.

Earlier this month, the school board showed they listened by voting on a policy that would require the school district to consider energy efficient practices throughout the district.

Chris Tiller, a recent eighth grader, is excited to see their work will actually have an impact.

"You wouldn't think a place where people come for getting in trouble would actually be able to change public policy," Tiller said of York One Academy, a school where students are placed because of behavioral or social issues.

But it happened.

"It was like the whole seventh and eighth grade got together and started working hard as a team," he said.

Project Citizen is a national program that encourages students to apply what they learn in the classroom to make their communities better.

From start to finish, the students have directed the project, said teacher Viv Robinson.

"They initiated this," she said. "This was their idea."

The students researched energy efficient practices, talked to schools that use them and then talked with local and state leaders about what to do with it.

"They were asking the senators, 'What are the laws in the state for each school district? Is there anything?' The Sierra Club they wrote for support, and then this green school they asked, 'How did you get this? How did you go about it?'" Robinson said.

One of the main things they looked at was Energy Star appliances, which use less electricity.

"It's a government-backed program," Tiller said. "It saves a lot of energy and it actually makes food taste better if you get the food from it because it uses cleaner stuff."

Even the teachers were surprised at the quick results of the project.

"We told (the students) that change takes a very long time," said fellow teacher Cassie Sullivan. "We tried prepping them with that."

But one by one, the pieces fell together.

District assistant superintendent Matt Brown said the board was impressed with the students' presentation.

"They were right on target as far as looking for and wanting to make an impact on protecting the environment," he said.

While Brown said school district officials have tried to be energy efficient, the district policy only had a vague reference to it.

"I think that them coming forward did have an impact on us looking at that and being able to put that into policy for future reference," Brown said.

As the district begins construction on the new high school, they are already taking into account ways to save energy.

The building is faced in a way that will maximize the amount of natural light that enters the building, he said, and energy efficient mechanical systems will be used.

Having the written policy will serve as a safeguard to ensure that as leadership changes energy efficient practices are used, he said.