D.C., Montgomery schools named National Green Ribbon schools

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Monday honored five Washington-area schools and the Montgomery County school system as National Green Ribbon Schools for their exemplary environmental education programs and sustainable facilities.

“These kinds of learning opportunities are what we all want for our children,” Duncan said during an Earth Day ceremony at Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School in the District, one of 64 individual schools honored nationwide. “The leadership here and the leadership we’re seeing around the country is pretty remarkable.”

Mundo Verde — Spanish for “Green World” — opened in 2011 as the District’s first sustainability-focused charter school. Administrators purchase nontoxic and eco-friendly furniture, teachers design science and health lessons around the school garden and students take regular field trips to Rock Creek Park.

The school is trying to become trash-free, using composting and recycling to cut down on waste. “We are so incredibly proud of our students and our staff,” said executive director Kristin Scotchmer, who added that the school’s mission is to help children “grow up to be the kinds of stewards that our planet needs.”

This is the second year the Education Department has awarded schools for their eco-friendly practices, and it is the first year that entire school districts have been eligible for the Green Ribbon award. State education agencies nominated candidates for the federal awards.

Montgomery County’s school system was one of 14 districts honored Monday. The system was cited for “setting an example with its sweeping green policies and procedures,” including buying enough green power to meet 20 percent of its electricity needs and establishing a systemwide environmental literacy plan.

Two Montgomery County schools were singled out for the Green Ribbon award: Cedar Grove Elementary in Germantown and Summit Hall Elementary in Gaithersburg.

Joshua P. Starr, superintendent of the Montgomery County schools, said he appreciated the recognition. “Montgomery County Public Schools has a strong commitment to green construction practices and minimizing our environmental footprint, including districtwide programs that encourage recycling and energy conservation,” Starr said in a statement. “We also make sure our students and staff understand the importance of being good environmental and ecological stewards at school, at home and in the community.”

Also recognized Monday were two other D.C. schools: Woodrow Wilson High School and Washington Yu Ying.

Wilson’s historic building was renovated two years ago, and its new environmentally friendly building includes a green roof and a stormwater management system to reduce runoff into Rock Creek. The school also features a suite of environmental science courses and a lab that can be used to create the conditions of any ecosystem on Earth.

Washington Yu Ying, a Chinese-language immersion charter school, sits on three wooded acres in Northeast Washington, where volunteers have built a nature center, trails and an observation deck.

Emma Brown writes about D.C. education and about people with a stake in schools, including teachers, parents and kids.
Lynh Bui is a Prince George's County public safety reporter and former Montgomery County education reporter.
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