Simcoe County District School Board revisiting environmental policy

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Educators are fighting climate change and bringing the battle into the classroom.

That’s the goal of proposed revisions to environmental policy at the county’s public school board.

Kayla Kalalian, environmental and energy systems co-ordinator for the Simcoe County District School Board, said appreciation for environmentally sound practices and outdoor learning are priorities for the board.

“Current science tells us that we as a society need to make a change to ensure the sustainability of our environment,” she said. “As a school board, we have an opportunity to work with students to educate them on the importance of our environment and how they can make positive change in their communities.”

The board has a responsibility to “walk the walk” when it comes to environmental sustainability, she said, adding there is also a bricks-and-mortar aspect to fighting climate change.

“We need to do what we can as an organization to reduce our environmental footprint in the way we design, build, operate and occupy our facilities,” Kalalian said.

In 2017, the SCDSB had 44 schools become certified Ontario EcoSchools, a voluntary program that sees schools monitoring their progress, implementing sustainability measures into their schools and submitting a portfolio online demonstrating their efforts.

By the end of the year, that number is expected to reach 50 schools.

“Nearly half of all of our schools will be certified EcoSchools because they believe in the importance of doing more to reduce the impacts of climate change,” Kalalian said. “The wonderful part of the EcoSchools program and the green teams in our schools is that they provide a rich opportunity for students to become the leaders and instigate the changes they want to see in their schools and the board.”

She cited initiatives such as the de-paving project at Hillcrest Public School which removed asphalt tennis and basketball courts and grass planted.

“Our local conservation authorities are also instrumental in providing opportunities to take students outside and to develop an understanding and relationship with nature – which further drives the desire to conserve and preserve it,” Kalalian said.

“We work to ensure that operational decisions have the least impact possible on our environment, wherever possible,” she added. Some of those include projects supported by the Ministry of Education’s greenhouse gas reduction fund.

It involves a $2.6-million grant to support the replacement, renewal and installation of new energy efficient building components in school buildings and portables at 21 schools.

It aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 1,000 tonnes per year.

The recommended updates to the environmental policy will be reviewed by the business and facilities committee on Wednesday night.

The revised policy could be approved at the board’s regular Nov. 22 meeting.

The board has had an environmental policy since 1996, and it has been updated several times since.

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