ALLY green schools event shows link between schools, health, and jobs

The Alliance for Leadership and Interconnection (ALLY) last week hosted "Green Schools as Learning Tools", a celebration of Cincinnati Public Schools' (CPS) Green and Healthy Schools initiative at Pleasant Ridge Montessori School.

The location is symbolic because it's the project for which ALLY began advocating for green schools, a process that led to CPS requiring all new builds to be built to LEED standards.

Thanks to the work of ALLY, Pleasant Ridge became home to the first LEED-certified PK-8 public school in the state of Ohio and a model for the Ohio School Facilities Commission.

"Cincinnati and the State of Ohio are leading the nation in sustainable design, and national organizations are looking to the Cincinnati model for green and healthy schools," says ALLY executive director Ginny Frazier, whose organization is putting together a how-to manual to share their campaign story and an online clearinghouse for information on the green schools movement.

The featured speaker was Robert Kobet, chair of LEED for Schools and president of Sustainaissance International.

"What LEED means to me is some indication of the extent to which the school board, and the district, advocates for the relationship between price, cost, and value on behalf of the children and long-term fiscal responsibility," Kobet says.  "I would hope that this model will serve other schools in Ohio and Kentucky, and everywhere else."

Kobet says that by cleaning up schools, many problems with student behavior go away.

"The good news is if you clean up your school, you have less disruption from the kids," he says.  "What good is the curriculum if the kid is sick, they can't hear – why are you teaching to a disaffected population?"

But green schools aren't just about student health, Kobet says.

He points out that for every job that exists now for a child entering kindergarten, half will be gone by the time the child graduates; One-third of the new jobs created during that time will be in green industries.

"If the school doesn't exhibit that, if the school doesn't teach about that, if the kids don't understand as much about the built environment as they do about the natural world... I say we did not meet our obligation," Kobet says.  "We blew it."

CPS board member Melanie Bates says that the district remains committed to green and healthy schools.

"For us, as a school board, going green is just good business," she says.  "And teaching green principles is something we should be doing."

Writer: Kevin LeMaster
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