Students, supporters making progress on climate proposal
An extensive, 70-page proposal to revamp the Newberg School District's approach to environmental education is picking up steam as its writers seek the district's endorsement.
The Chehalem Valley Watershed Project's "Environmental Education Continuum" would provide sweeping changes to the district's curriculum and facilities with an eye on increased sustainability and an increased focus on environmental education.
CVWP, led by NHS graduate Quentin Comus, biology teacher Peter Siderius and other NHS students, wrote up the proposal and gathered public comment on its first draft in September. Comus said the next steps for the proposal are rapidly approaching.
"We took that public comment and some additional feedback from teachers and industry representatives, looked at other comparable programs around the country and refined some of the details in the proposal," Comus said. "Our original budget was not very comprehensive, so we decided to go big or go home and make it a $2.3 million, five-year program budget."
The funding for the districtwide program would come from local businesses, donors and grants received to do research projects that fell under the proposal's umbrella. In the time since September, Comus and company have uncovered additional sources of funding, which bumped the proposed number up to $2.3 million.
The program outlined in the continuum, at least initially, wouldn't require a significant investment on the part of the school district. Enough outside resources can be assembled, Comus said, for the program to last five years. Beyond that, the district may need to pool together some funds to keep it going.
"We planned to seek funding from outside sources and industry partners, but within the last few months we've focused on outlining what that might look like," he said. "We've incorporated more grant opportunities into the proposal, too. We've gained additional insight into what the proposal might look like and it's beefed up with these standardized practices."
When Comus, Siderius and others last met with Newberg Superintendent Joe Morelock and Director of Strategic Partnerships Luke Neff, the district was hesitant to endorse the plan at that time. Comus said he hopes the revisions made will alleviate their concerns, leading to the continuum's adoption by the school board.
The goal is to make it feasible for the district to implement, garnering support from community partners and local entities who can help with the transition. Local groups such as the Newberg Sustainable Solutions Group and Yamhill Watershed Stewardship Fund were among those mentioned as allies in this effort.
Some of the revisions came as a result of local students' activism, too. Bridget Czarnecki, an eighth grade student at Chehalem Valley Middle School, helped influence the continuum's section on sustainability, which calls on local schools to change their practices and update their buildings to do less harm to the environment.
The primary focus of the continuum is to "provide non-stop integrated environmental education from the first day of kindergarten to high school graduation," according to the CVWP website. More information on the proposal is available at www.CVWP.org/continuum, where the full document is available for people to read.
Comus said he is gathering evidence of support and endorsements from local entities to add to CVWP's case that this continuum should be adopted. U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley's office has reached out to them about the effort as well and Comus said he is hoping to gain the senator's endorsement in this fight for transformative change.
Combatting climate change appears to be a growing movement among Newberg's youth and they appear to have adult allies in the classroom and elsewhere. What happens next with the continuum remains to be seen as Comus, Siderius and company continue negotiating with the school district.
"This will hopefully be presented to the school board in January or February, depending on how our upcoming meetings go," Comus said. "If we can get the support and endorsements from the community, the momentum will continue to build on this."
Schools in brief
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