ED Officials Began Facilities Best Practices Tour in Alabama

Green Strides Design


          U.S. Department of Education

   Green Strides

ED Officials Launch Facilities Best Practices Tour

Last week, officials from ED, USDA, EPA and the state of Alabama kicked off the first leg of the Department's Education Built to Last Facilities Best Practices Tour “Talladega County, exemplary in best practices for energy management and environmental health, was an exceptional district  to kick off our tour,” said ED-Green Ribbon Schools Director Andrea Falken.  “The district has used over four million in utility costs avoided to maintain healthy, safe, educationally exceptional schools for its rural students,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary for Rural Outreach John White.  In the coming weeks, the tour will also visit other states and schools. .>>> 

Below ED-GRS Director Andrea Falken speaks with students at Winterboro High School about their work in Opus, a project-based class combining math, science, music and art.


School Sites Visited

The 17 acre Fayetteville High School campus is a central hub for the entire community, featuring large, raised garden beds and a wetland area, constructed in partnership with FarmLinks, Inc., a local family-owned business and Auburn University’s horticulture Department.  The school community has established a native tree grove, built a children’s sensory garden, and planted over 250 trees and 700 shrubs. Since opening the new building, FHS received the ENERGY STAR certification in 2009 and has saved $287,573 in utility cost avoidance.



Munford Middle School and Munford High School, in one building, have challenged their students with authentic learning experiences in outdoor classrooms where students have, in collaboration with Jacksonville State University graduate students, electroshocked their frog pond for species identification and for signs of a potentially lethal amphibian skin disease.  They also raise tilapia in six 1,000 gallon tanks in their greenhouse (pictured above), developed a blue bird trail, and student Youth Conservation Corps members teach visitors about the native species and geography of Alabama as they visit walking trails, reading pavilions and an active waterfall.  The building was certified ENERGY STAR in 2009, saving $431,446.

Winterboro High School students are prepared for their future through project-based learning that is heavy in real-life science, technology, and math applications.  The historic 1936 structure built by local craftsmen and on the state register of historic places is located on 40 acres conducive to outdoor studies and wholesome physical activities.  The school’s lagoon wastewater system is a unique environmental learning venue.  By adding insulation to the building for the first time, the school went from a baseline Portfolio Manager rating of 24 to a 87 rating, leading to a 30 percent utility cost savings.


Thanks to successful partnerships with the Alabama Forestry Commission, Natural Resource Conservation Service and U.S. Forest Service, Munford Elementary (pictured left) is the first school in the southeast modeled after a forest and integrates forestry, conservation, and environmental education themes throughout the curriculum. Through “theme immersion,” daily instruction uses the physical design and interactive exhibits to teach all subjects in project based learning.  The school has saved 22 percent on utilities, earning the ENERGY STAR label in 2009.

Funding Opportunities

Education Facilities Clearinghouse Program

The purpose of this U.S. Department of Education program is to provide technical assistance and training on the planning, design, financing, procurement, construction, improvement, operation, and maintenance of safe, healthy, and high-performing elementary and secondary education facilities.  The deadline for applications for this cooperative agreement is August 12, 2013.>>>

 Healthy Schools: Environmental Factors, Performance, and Sustainability

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is seeking applications proposing research that will inform K-12 educational facilities building design, construction and operation practices in order to foster safe and healthy school environments and maximize student achievement and teacher and staff effectiveness. Specifically, the goal of the research grant is to understand the relationship among environmental factors and the health, safety and performance of students, teachers and staff.>>>

Qualified Zone Academy Bond Allocations Released

The Internal Revenue Service released the 2013 allocations for Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZABs). Established in 1997 and administered by school districts serving lowincome to issue taxcredit bonds that save on interest costs for financing school renovations and repairs, but not new construction.  Local education agencies should contact their state education agency for additional information.>>>  

Grants to Improve Educational Services and School Facilities in Rural Communities

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced June 28 that USDA is accepting applications for grants to provide access to education, training and healthcare resources in rural areas.  Completed applications must be received by August 12, 2013. >>>

The Rural Community Facilities Program is designed to develop essential community facilities for public use in rural areas, including school facilities. The rural community facilities grants, direct and guaranteed loans are available to municipalities, counties, specialpurpose districts, nonprofit corporations, and tribal governments to be used in rural areas and towns of up to 20,000 in population.  Rural school leaders should contact their USDA state office for assistance with accessing Rural Development programs. >>>


Other Resources and Opportunities

Be sure to check the regularly updated Green Strides Resources Page for an ever growing list of free resources for schools seeking to be healthier, safer and more sustainable. STEM, energy education, ocean education, project based learning, school facilities and environmental health are some of the many student and staff outcome enhancing materials available.>>>

ED’s Green Strides Webinar Series continues with the tools to reduce schools’ environmental impact and costs; improve health and wellness; and teach effective environmental literacy. Find more sessions for educators, facilities managers, and advocates – even during the summer! 

July 23, 2013, 3-4 p.m. IPM: Protecting Kids from Pests and Pesticides (EPA)

July 24, 2013, 4-5 p.m. Recycle-Bowl Competition and Educational Resources (KAB)

July 30, 2013, 2-3 p.m. Green Cleaning Award for Schools & Universities (HSC)

July 31, 2013, 2-3 p.m. Guidelines for Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (CDC)

Aug. 6, 2013, 2-3 p.mGreen Cleaning: Learn from the Leaders (HSC)

Aug. 7, 2013, 1-2 p.m. Mold and Moisture Control in Schools (EPA)

Aug. 14, 2013, 2-3 p.m. Training Tools for Healthy Schools (CDC)

Aug. 20, 2013 3-4 p.m. Current Issues in Chemical Management for Schools (EPA)


Call for Green School National Conference Presentations

In preparation for next Green School National Conference in March, with the theme “Working Together for Healthy, Sustainable Schools,” the Green Schools National Network has issued a call for conference presentations.  In addition, the GSNN website now includes a more comprehensive list of green schools around the country and a research resource page with links to essential documents that are shaping best practices.>>>

Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool

The Center for Disease Control has released the updated Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool (HECAT)The HECAT helps school districts, schools, and others conduct a clear, complete, and consistent analysis of health education curricula based on the National Health Education Standards and CDC’s Characteristics of an Effective Health Education Curriculum


Green Building and Human Health

The USGBC Green Building & Human Health Working Group recently released a new report called Health is a Human Right. Green Building Can Help, which includes a summary of the Green Building & Human Health Summit from January, current initiatives and potential action plan topics. 


In Case You Missed: Students Transforming the Future of Food in Our Schools

On June 10th, the U.S. Department of Education hosted student chefs from high school culinary programs as part of Cooking up Change, sponsored by the Healthy Schools Campaign. This healthy cooking contest puts student front and center by challenging them to create a great-tasting lunch that meets nutrition standards on a tight budget. After winning first place in their local Cooking up Change competition, eight teams of student chefs traveled to Washington to lend their voices, and their culinary creativity, to the national conversation about the future of food in our schools.>>>