East Brunswick Vo-Tech has been named a New Jersey Green Ribbon School in recognition of its commitment to reducing its environmental impact, improving the health and wellness of its students and staff and introducing sustainability into its curriculum.
“We are very proud of this honor,” said Brian J. Loughlin, superintendent of the Middlesex County Vocational and Technical Schools. “East Brunswick Tech is the first vocational school in the state to achieve this recognition.”
The award was presented March 17 at the annual expo of the New Jersey School Building & Grounds Association in Atlantic City. The selection was made by representatives of the state Department of Education, the state Department of Environmental Protection, the New Jersey School Boards Association, New Jersey Audubon and a number of other environmental groups.
East Brunswick Vo-Tech was one of four New Jersey schools to receive the honor, joining Princeton Day School, Timber Creek Regional High School in Camden County and William Davies Middle School in Hamilton Township in Atlantic County.
These schools now are in the running to be named National Green Ribbon Schools; the selections will be announced U.S. Department of Education on Earth Day, April 22.
Principal Jeffrey Bicsko explained that the selection is based on three “pillars” of achievement in green action: reducing the school’s environmental impact; improving the health and wellness of students and staff, initiating an effective environmental and sustainability curriculum.
“It starts out with small steps and blossoms into this whole school of thought,” he said. “The kids are thinking differently now. They are having discussions about what we need to do.”
“I think the great thing is that it’s student led,” said Assistant Superintendent of Schools Dianne Veilleux. “They’re teaching the adults.”
Efforts to lessen the school’s carbon footprint include an energy audit, installation of water bottle refilling stations to reduce the use of plastic bottles; students’ growing food for use in culinary classes, the cafeteria and at area food banks, and efforts to repurpose materials rather than throwing them away.
“It’s a comprehensive look at the physical plant of the school,” Veilleux said, including pest management and groundskeeping practices.
Wellness efforts include a fitness challenge in competition with other schools in the district, establishment of a cross-country team, and an annual 5K race that increase student engagement with the community.
The curriculum now includes a college-level course in conjunction with Stockton State College called “Principles of Sustainability.” The biology curriculum now includes a unit on sustainability, as do the various career majors. There is a new green program of study in which students are introduced to possible careers in sustainable industries, such as alternative energy sources, including solar and wind generation.
“You have a school community that new thinks about its use of resources,” Veilleux said.
The Middlesex County Vocational and Technical School District, the first full-time county vocational school district in the nation, is celebrating its centennial during the 2014-2015 school year. It has seven schools on five campuses, in East Brunswick, Edison, Piscataway, Perth Amboy and Woodbridge.
Contact: Assistant Superintendent of Schools Dianne Veilleux, (732) 257-3300, Ext. 1928