This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Since introducing its first-ever sustainability plan called GreenFutures in 2016, the School District of Philadelphia has been working to improve the health and wellness of its schools, students, and staff. On Wednesday, that work was honored when representatives from the District received the U.S. Department of Education’s 2017 Green Ribbon School District Sustainability Award during a ceremony in Washington, D.C.
The District is one of just nine school districts nationwide to receive this recognition, which highlights the work of schools, districts, and post-secondary institutions for their innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and costs, improve health and wellness, and ensure effective sustainability education.
“The District made significant efforts this year to make our schools more sustainable,” said Superintendent William Hite in a statement. “We are grateful to the support of our dedicated partners and staff that helped make this exciting award possible.”
Pennsylvania Department of Education Secretary Pedro Rivera nominated the District for the award. The District received word in May that it was one of the awardees and held a press conference at Henry C. Lea School – one of several school sites where “green” initiatives are taking place – to announce and celebrate the honor.
The District’s GreenFutures plan that has seen the completion of several projects so far, including:
- The construction of nine new green schoolyards in the past year, valued at $3 million.
- A $1 million project to install new hydration stations in every District school to provide students access to safe, appealing water.
- An $11 million relighting project at three schools.
- The implementation of a “Harvest of the Month” program to provide fresh local fruits and vegetables to students at more than 100 schools.
Across the country, 63 honorees, including nine school districts, 45 schools, and nine post-secondary institutions, were recognized. The honorees were named from a pool of candidates nominated by 28 states and the Department of Defense Education Activity.