Prince George’s schools go green with a new climate action plan

Holds space while article actions load

The Prince George’s School system is working on a climate action plan that will reduce its CO2 footprint and offer more robust curricula on environmental justice.

The plan contains 58 recommendations from a working group of students, parents, teachers and administrators and was unanimously approved by the school board on Thursday. The recommendations include initiatives that will reduce the amount of food waste and non-renewable energy from the school system. The plan also includes adding lessons to students on topics such as construction design with recyclable materials.

The plan began to evolve last year after students pressured the Board of Education to prioritize climate action initiatives. In March 2021, the board passed a resolution that included promises to operate the school system at 100 percent clean energy by 2030 and contribute with zero waste disposal by 2040.

When the board adopted this decision, it also set up the working group tasked with drafting the plan presented Thursday. Board member Pamela Boozer-Strother (District 3), who co-chaired the focus group, called it “a deep dive into all aspects of our school system.”

“Students are hungry for this information,” Boozer-Strother said in an interview. “They told us through the process from their own research and experience that PGCPS could do more.”

How extreme weather has created a disaster for school infrastructure

Joseph Jakuta, a parent of two in the school system and co-chair of the group, said the implementation of the plan would demonstrate leadership in terms of environmental sustainability and resilience for younger generations.

“If we do not act, [my children’s] the generation of education will suffer more if we are to spend more and more on volatile energy prices and rebuilding after floods instead of on education, ”said Jakuta. “But you make a difference.”

Three students spoke at Thursday’s meeting and called on the board to approve the plan.

“I’m 14 when I finish high school. By that time, I’ll see reduced amounts of plastic used each year,” said Ezra Thomas, a seventh grader at Kenmoor Middle School, adding that the plan would encourage students to instead reuse.

Nithin Gudderra, an 11th grader at Oxon Hill High School, pointed to warming temperatures in the ocean that melted glaciers and forest fires across California as evidence that climate change was taking over his future.

“I’m not sure what my future will look like,” Gudderra told the board. “I would like to have children, but I do not know if it is ethically or morally acceptable if we continue on the path we are on right now.”

Maryland lawmakers have previously sought to step up efforts to teach about climate change. In 2014, governors of Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia and West Virginia and the mayor of the District of Columbia signed the Chesapeake Watershed Agreement, which included a goal of requiring students to learn to protect the watershed, said Laura Johnson Collard, the Executive Director of the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education. And in 2011, government officials passed a regulation requiring environmental skills as a requirement for high school diplomas.

Why it is a mistake to only teach climate change in science classes

Prince George’s County is one of Maryland’s leading school systems when it comes to tackling environmental issues, Johnson Collard said. As the second largest school district in Maryland, it has 141 schools that are Green Schools certified – the most of any school district in the state. The certification goes to schools that show significant efforts to preserve and improve environmental sustainability.

William S. Schmidt Outdoor Education Center – based in Brandywine, Md. – has taken the lead in teaching students environmental skills. Donald Belle, an environmental outreach director for the organization and a member of the working group, said the ultimate goal is to provide students and staff with the information “to act on climate change.” The Climate Action Plan achieves this by anchoring environmental competencies across different disciplines.

Some students are already intervening directly by composting regularly at their schools, and the school system’s climate action plan provides a framework for more schools to join, he said.

“It provides greater opportunity for our students to be a part of the solution,” he said.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.