Prince George’s Schools Team up with the Clean Water Partnership on Green Stormwater Retrofit Projects

by Carmel Jones

CWP Partners Nardi Construction and Soltesz reviewing design plans for L...

Eighteen schools in Prince George’s County were evaluated this year to receive green stormwater retrofits as part of the county’s Clean Water Partnership (CWP), a $100M public-private partnership with private company Corvias Solutions, to retrofit 2,000 impervious acres with green infrastructure in order to achieve regulatory compliance.

The CWP Schools program, designed to assist Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) with treating and managing stormwater runoff through the application of Best Management Practices (BMPs), will guarantee that PGC’s federal stormwater standards are met, while also providing an educational legacy for future generations committed to improving the water quality in our communities.

Courtyard Demolition at Capital Heights Elem. School

The program includes an educational component, and select schools will receive instructive signage, educating students about the benefits of managing stormwater runoff and displaying how installed BMPs will perform at each site. At the end of the summer, students and faculty from the schools will also have an opportunity to participate in a volunteer tree planting session that will support the installed BMP devices. These educational learning sessions will take place during school hours and will give students a hands-on experience in preserving our environment.

The initial eighteen schools identified to participate in the program include elementary, middle, and high schools in Prince George’s County. These schools include:

  • Bond Mill Elementary School
  • Calverton Elementary School
  • Capital Heights Elementary School
  • District Heights Elementary School
  • Frances Scott Key Elementary School
  • Friendly High School
  • Gwynn Park High School
  • High Point High School
  • John Hanson Montessori
  • Laurel Elementary School
  • Magnolia Elementary School
  • Oxon Hill Middle School
  • Parkdale High School
  •  Potomac High School
  • Rosa L. Parks Elementary School
  • Scotchtown Hills Elementary School
  • Templeton Elementary School
  • Walker Mill Middle School

Completed Retrofit at Rosa Parks Elem. SchoolIn the initial phase of the program, each school was given an individual plan, which included a customized package with pictures and concept designs, as well as a dialogue to help each school understand the purpose of the BMP devices. The retrofit needs for each school were pre-identified by the school’s students, faculty and maintenance staff, and customized to fit the unique needs of each facility. Since then, various types of BMPs, including bio-retention cells, sand filters and swales, to name a few, are now being installed by local workforce on the outdoor grounds of each location to capture and treat previously untreated stormwater runoff from the sites impervious surfaces.

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Gardening at School: How We Made It Work

by Ingrid Cowan Hass
IMG_6547A few years ago parents of the PTA at our neighborhood elementary school started talking about adding some landscaping to the school grounds. The principal liked the idea of a pollinator garden in front of the school. There was also an abandoned courtyard garden that had been started with a grant by a teacher who was no longer at the school. We wondered if that could be revived.

The project began with just a few parents weeding over a period of time. Then, last spring, we created two garden beds out of the mound of grass and weeds surrounding the flagpoles in front of the school. We communicated with the school building manager about our plans. His schedule didn’t allow him to do more than mow the grass, so he was thrilled to have the extra help. We met with the principal, talked about the placement, and got approval to put up cedar edging to hold the earth and mulch. I weeded the existing raised beds in the courtyard and collaborated with a teacher about planting some lettuce and kale with her classes. We uncovered strawberries that we replanted with new compost. With the extra care, the strawberries produced a bumper crop!

IMG_8235I started taking a small bucket and gloves to school every day and weeding during drop-off and pick-up for 10 minutes. This generated conversation, awareness, and new volunteers among the other parents. We asked for parents to bring in flowering perennials from their gardens to plant in the new bed. Some dads brought mulch in their trucks. We visited a few other schools that had gardens to learn about what they were doing.

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Sixth Grader Excited about Composting, Gardening, and Recycling at School

Berwyn Heights Elementary has been certified as a green school by the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE). One student member of the school’s environmental club wrote about how Berwyn Heights Elementary runs a successful composting and gardening program.

Hi, I’m Zada and I’m in 6th grade at Berwyn Heights Elementary School in Prince George’s County. I’m a member of the school’s environmental club for the second year now. In the environmental club we do many activities. Some things we do are composting, recycling, and trying to be as green as possible!

Composting was the main thing we did. We would compost every week last year. This year we have buckets for compost in the lunchroom and outside classrooms. Every day some sixth graders, including me, collect the buckets from the cafeteria and classrooms and empty the compost. It is later dumped into a larger compost bin that is located outside of our school. In the compost we put in greens and browns. Greens are things like apple cores, banana peels, orange peels, coffee grounds, egg shells, and salad without dressing, cheese or meat. Browns are things like leaves, grass clippings, and hay. Meat, cheese, dressing, and large sticks and twigs cannot be composted. The ratio is every bucket of greens needs three buckets of browns.

When we began composting last year, we only collected food scraps from breakfast. It took us a long time to fill our large compost bin outside. When we finally filled it, we mixed it up really well and then let it “cook.” While it “cooked” (which was really just sitting there breaking down), we took the temperature of it a few times a week. When it was really breaking down the temperatures got as high as 130 degrees! Once during the cooking process, we pulled everything out, mixed it again and then put it back in the bin.

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Classrooms Too Hot or Too Cold? Here Are the PGCPS Thermostat Settings Regulations

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

We have heard from teachers, parents, and students from across the county who are concerned about 20150515_104837the classroom temperatures at their schools. One teacher at a county middle school writes:

On Friday May 15th, [2015] my classroom was 64 degrees F. On Tuesday May 19th, my classroom was 81 degrees F. Despite continual emails to the school administration asking about the cooling system’s condition, there was no response.

The next day, on May 20th, I took my class outside, to the front courtyard, because my room was just as hot and humid as the day before. Ironically, another teacher from down the hall took her students outside to the rear courtyard because her classroom was so cold.  Another teacher brought in gloves, a scarf, and hat because she said her classroom temperature dropped below 60 degrees F.

So, how hot or cold are classrooms supposed to be? How about bathrooms, health rooms, and hallways? The Building Services Department has answers on its website. The “PGPCPS Seasonal Temperature Standards” are designated as Energy Conservation/ Bulletins S-46-96 and S-90-93, regulating thermostat settings for facilities in the school system.

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Ten Things We Love About PGCPS

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

IMG_6342There are plenty of things to appreciate about Prince George’s County Public Schools. Here are ten of them:

1. Dedicated Staff

We have benefited from some truly remarkable, inspiring teachers and visionary, hard-working principals who really are making a difference. One parent writes, “If I go to our school at 7 am, there is staff there (school starts at 9:15). When I go there at 7 pm, there is staff there. Lots of staff are leading many extracurricular activities, there is always something going on at the school.”

2. Strong Instrumental Music Programs

Beginning in grade four, elementary school students may learn to play a string, woodwind, or brass instrument in twice-weekly classes. Instrumental music is also offered to middle and high schoolers. Here is a lovely YouTube video of the PGCPS Honor Band and Middle School Honor Chorus.

3. Career Academies and Specialty Programs

The list of career academies offered in PGCPS high schools was recently expanded in the 2014-2015 school year. It’s an impressive list! PGCPS also offers Creative and Performing Arts and STEM magnet programs.

4. Dual Enrollment

Students may enroll at any public college or university in Maryland while still enrolled in high school and have their tuition paid for by PGCPS. Read more here.

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Styrofoam Trays on the Way Out for PGCPS Cafeterias

by Genevieve Demos Kelley

This post has been updated to reflect current information on the phasing in of new five-compartment lunch trays.

IMG_6485Products made from polystyrene (the material we typically refer to as Styrofoam) will be phased out of use in PGCPS cafeterias during the 2015-2016 school year. A recent Washington Post article noted the efforts of Montgomery County and D.C. schools to use more sustainable cafeteria products: Montgomery County has already abandoned the use of polystyrene lunch trays and D.C. uses reusable trays as well as compostable trays. While PGCPS was not mentioned in the Post article, according to the school system’s Department of Food and Nutrition Services, we will see a shift away from polystyrene products used in cafeterias in the coming months.

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