City Schools of Decatur to be recognized for going green

City Schools of Decatur’s Chief Operating Officer Noel Maloof announced to the board of education that the district is being recognized for sustainability and green practices. Photo by Travis Hudgons

It’s a four-step process that is constantly happening.

A new building is planned. The structure goes from imaginary to a penciled or painted rendering.
The building is built. Glass, steel and stone come together to forge a haven for enterprise, shelter or learning.

The building is used and maintained. People travel throughout the edifice; they clean its corridors; they run water through its steel veins; they breathe air into its vents.

The building is updated or renovated. Segments of steel, portions of glass and pieces of stone are replaced to allow new technology or aesthetics. In certain cases, the building is simply replaced and the process starts over again.

Like any other lengthy process, this cycle is often completed with time as the first priority. Little to no attention is paid to the building’s surrounding environment. Even less is paid to the health of people walking in, out and around the building every day.

City Schools of Decatur (CSD) has proven to be an exception.

On April 22, or Earth Day 2016, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) announced City Schools of Decatur as a Green Ribbon School and a recipient of the U.S. DOE Green Ribbon Schools District Sustainability Award.

The award is given to school systems throughout the country excelling in “green practices,” including reducing environmental impact, improving the health of students and staff as well as providing effective environmental education.

The distinction is awarded each year to 47 independent schools, 15 districts, and 11 higher education facilities throughout the country. On July 20, the district will be honored in Washington, D.C., during a national celebration.

CSD was specifically recognized for sustainability practices in its newer buildings as well as retrofits in its older buildings.

“It’s very difficult to have 100-plus-year-old buildings, brand new buildings and integrate them all in,” said CSD Chief Operating Officer Noel Maloof. “From a facility and maintenance standpoint, we have done a lot of work over the last five years to really retrofit.”

Maloof also mentioned the district’s energy efficient bus fleet and integration of new technologies as money-saving practices that allow CSD to stand out.

CSD’s partnership with the city of Decatur in collecting rainwater in vaults underneath facilities was also applauded by the DOE.

“We store somewhere in the neighborhood of 127,000 cubic feet of rainwater under [Decatur High School’s] stadium,” Maloof said. “It gets filtered. In the long run, this has caused the flooding that used to happen along Trinity Place to go away.”

Maloof said the district was also recognized for its Farm to School program, a “grassroots effort led by parents, teachers, administrators, community members and organizations” that focuses on serving healthy meals in cafeterias and providing nutrition education in classrooms.

“[The Farm to School program] is a huge cornerstone for us,” said Maloof.

Maloof announced the award to CSD’s board of education on May 10. The COO said it has taken CSD about five years to reach this point of “being green,” and that this was only the beginning of a larger, broader process.

“Long term, this is a springboard for us,” Maloof said. “It will really help us stay focused on building sustainable buildings moving into the 21st century. It will help us build a school system that is responsible with its resources and imparting that to the education of our students – that’s what we did.”

Board chairman Annie Caiola said the award was a good example of what goes on “behind the scenes,” and aligns with Decatur’s goals as a whole.

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