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School board will consider environmental sustainability plan

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More green spaces, solar panels, widespread composting and other environmentally sustainable initiatives may be coming to Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.

The school board will vote on Nov. 15 whether to approve a resolution committing the district to an environmental sustainability plan that will cut across several areas including curriculum, buildings and grounds and waste management.

“(This) is our district taking a stand that this is important to us,” Superintendent Tricia McManus said recently at a joint meeting of the school board’s curriculum and finance and building committees.

The joint committees recommended sending the resolution to the full board for a vote.

Board member Elisabeth Motsinger was emotional as she talked about her support for the resolution. A longtime champion of sustainability, Motsinger’s 16-year tenure on the board will end in a few weeks.

She talked about the message the resolution will send to community members, including students, who have advocated for sustainability.

“This is saying we believe in our future, and we’re with you, and we’re going to be working together,” Motsinger said.

The resolution came about through meetings with Piedmont Environmental Alliance, a local nonprofit organization, community stakeholders and district leaders, McManus said.

The goal, she said, is to look at some of the programs already in place at certain schools — such as composting at Speas Elementary School — and see how it can be replicated at other schools.

“It’s been scattered,” she said of various sustainability efforts in the district, “and we want to go to a more holistic, systemic approach.”

The resolution would also mean that the school district is playing a role in Forsyth County’s goal of having 100% renewable energy in county operations by 2050.

If passed, the resolution calls for the school district to focus on three areas — sustainable grounds and learning landscapes; recycling compost and waste; and cleaner energy and smaller carbon footprint.

Some possible areas of action including exploring opportunities for electric vehicles and solar panels, establishing energy dashboards for each school, expanding composting to five new schools next year and conducting energy audits for each school. In addition, future buildings will be planned with environmental sustainability at the forefront.

Board member Dana Caudill Jones said she has some concern about how some of the new initiatives could impact the budget.

“I’m not in favor of putting something in that is such a burden that there is more cost than what we have,” she said. “As long as it’s done in a very common sense way, I have nothing against it.”

McManus said there may be some upfront cost to do things differently.

“But the long-term savings is going to be what matters,” she said.

Jones voted to recommend that the full school board vote on the resolution, but she said she wants to make sure that other energy sources are not vilified.

336-727-7420

@lisaodonnellWSJ

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