Saving the environment becomes a team effort at new elementary schools

Little Bennett, Great Seneca Creek will offer students and teachers lessons about conservation

Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2006

Teachers and students at the new upcounty elementary schools will be asked to pitch in to help make the most of their new buildings, which include ‘‘green” features that will be safer for the environment.

Little Bennett in Clarksburg and Great Seneca Creek in Germantown were built with virtually the same design.

Great Seneca Creek has applied to become a certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) school under the U.S. Green Building Council, but Little Bennett is not submitting an application due to the cost.

The minor differences between the schools are the placement of dual-flush toilets in kindergarten classrooms and the addition of fiberglass-framed windows throughout the Germantown school.

In both schools large windows and sloping ceilings will make use of natural sunlight so that less energy will be used for the overhead florescent lights. Waterless urinals will save water and reduce odor in the school bathrooms. Automatic sinks in the bathrooms will also conserve water.

Little Bennett Principal Shawn Miller met with teachers Tuesday to talk about how to best utilize the green building.

A green school’s classrooms are much brighter than standard classrooms. Bookshelves inside the Little Bennett classrooms are made from wheat board, which is a renewable resource. White erase boards line the walls instead of chalkboards, which will reduce the amount of dust that floats in the air. Classroom walls were painted with odorless paint. In each classroom three walls are painted white and one is painted a bright color such as yellow or blue.

The school’s white roof will reflect sunlight and keep the building cooler, which will save money on air conditioning, Miller said. Flat-screened computers are found throughout the school because they use less electricity, he added.

Teachers should keep blinds open to capture natural light from the tall windows, Miller said. Teachers will be able to adjust thermostat settings by a few degrees to change classroom temperatures.

During the first few days of school, teachers will offer students lessons on conserving light, water and electricity.

‘‘It is an opportunity to use the school to teach students about the importance of caring for the environment and how our building conserves resources,” Miller said. ‘‘It is a hands-on way to show them.”

Todd Jarman, Little Bennett’s building service manager, said students must clean up after themselves and recycle in order for the school to achieve its goals for helping the environment.

‘‘The biggest thing is getting the students involved in it and letting them know that what they are doing is making a difference,” he said.

Little Bennett teacher Irene Alliare is looking forward to the start of the school year. She thinks her students will be excited about using the state-of-the-art bathrooms.

‘‘The bathrooms will be an adjustment as far as showing them how to use the waterless urinals and washing their hands,” said Alliare, a second-grade teacher. ‘‘There will be adjustment. Recycling — we try that at every school, but at this one we will make sure.”

Cleaning staffs at the schools will use green cleaning procedures, which segment work to improve efficiency. One all-purpose cleaner will replace the variety of products workers normally used to clean bathrooms, glass and carpets.

‘‘The biggest problem we have in other schools is you have people with allergies,” Jarman said. ‘‘Keep the dust down and you keep a lot of your complaints down.”

Workers will use vacuums instead of brooms to improve air quality. Standard wet mops will be replaced with microfiber dust mops, which will have magnets inside of them to catch dust particles.