SHERRARD - Even the new kindergarten students at Hilltop Elementary School in Sherrard know its "not easy being green," but their school and Cameron High School both have achieved "green ribbons" from the U.S. Department of Education for being ecologically responsible.
Representatives with the U.S. Department of Education and the State Department of Education toured both facilities Friday to see first-hand the schools' efforts to reduce adverse environmental impact on their properties, improve health and wellness and promote environmental education.
Andrea Falken, director of the agency's green ribbon schools initiative, visited winning schools in Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia this week during her annual "Best Practices Tour."
Photo by Joselyn King/Breanna Defibaugh, left, and Camdyn Roush, new kindergarten students at Hilltop Elementary School in Sherrard, enjoy their first visit to the school’s library Friday.
"We want to incentivize more schools to be more environmentally friendly," she said. "These schools are healthier, and they save money. People think green schools are only in California, but they're all over the country."
Upon entering the parking lot at Hilltop Elementary, visitors immediately see the recycling bin there. The school recycles cardboard, paper and plastic bottles, said principal Cindy McCutcheon. Soon, a raised garden bed will be constructed. Also, parking spots closer to the front door are reserved for hybrid and fuel efficient vehicles.
Inside the building, the school's floors are made from recycled rubber, and the walls are also made from recycled materials.
There is also fresh air and careful climate control at both schools. When carbon dioxide levels reach a pre-determined level, the ventilation system kicks in to bring air from the outside into the classrooms. This keeps students from being groggy in the afternoons, according to their teachers.
Cameron High School teacher Linda Shalaway said the staff there is very excited about their facility.
"I know your jaw just drops as you're just stepping into the building, but you haven't seen anything yet," she said. "It's an incredible building."
Natural light flows into classrooms through an exposed window system called a kalwall, and this reduces the need for electrical light, said Scott Kain, an employee with McKinley and Associates. As the sun shines brighter later in the day, the electric lights in the room dim to compensate.
The lights turn on when someone enters a room in the school, and they shut off after 15 minutes if no motion is detected.
The school also has a chilled beam HVAC system, Kain said. Pipes with water traverse the room, and pass through a beam suspended above each room.
The beam emits cooler air that falls downward into the room, reducing the need for air conditioning.