Park Forest Elementary School awarded for green initiatives

Park Forest Elementary School students find out Friday the school has been named by the U.S. Department of Education as a Green Ribbon School.
Park Forest Elementary School students find out Friday the school has been named by the U.S. Department of Education as a Green Ribbon School. Photo provided

When it comes to trying to save the Earth, Park Forest Elementary School is at the forefront.

The school was recognized Friday by the U.S. Department of Education as a Green Ribbon School.

On Earth Day, they were also congratulated by the state Department of Education for being among 73 institutions and education agencies nationwide working on environmental issues.

“We’re thrilled, we’re ecstatic,” Principal Donnan Stoicovy said. “I learned in February our name was going forward with the U.S. Department of Education and got a call last night (Thursday).”

On Friday, she made the announcement to the school.

“We have great staff and great students and a great community that helped make this happen,” Stoicovy said.

According to a press release from PDE, the Green Ribbon Schools program recognizes schools “based on their efforts to reduce environmental impact and costs; to improve health and wellness of schools, students and staff; and to provide environmental education, including STEM, civics and green career pathways.”

Stoicovy said Park Forest Elementary is a “zero waste” school, which means that about 85 percent of waste is diverted from landfills.

Of the 15 percent not recycled, Stoicovy said 13 percent comes from milk cartons.

But the Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority is working on changing that.

“Once that happens we’ll be down to 2 percent — about as close to zero waste as you can get,” Stoicovy said.

But the school is hardly at its limit with finding new ways to reduce waste.

Plant Supervisor Danny Gill made a small version of a waste station in the school’s cafeteria.

Stoicovy said the contraption was made from an old waste station from the recycling department at Penn State.

“He cut it down to kid size, and it’s perfect for them,” she said.

The school also works with TerraCycle — a New Jersey-based recycling company that rewards its customers for reducing waste.

Money received from the program was put toward two water bottle filling stations.

Stoicovy said one was installed about two years ago, and the other was installed during the summer.

“We’re saving over 45,000 bottles from going in the landfill right now,” she said.

And environmental education efforts in school are trickling to out-of-school efforts.

“I’m getting calls from parents saying, ‘my child makes me do the same things they do at school,’ ” Stoicovy said. “There’s a ripple effect. This is a good thing.”

Other Pennsylvania institutions that were given the award included Slippery Rock University and the School District of Jenkintown.

“Pennsylvania’s Green Ribbon Schools represent the commonwealth’s commitment to providing students with an education that can present new pathways in fields — like STEM and agriculture — that lead to work in high priority occupations,” Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera said in a statement. “Meanwhile, the state’s environment benefits as these schools work to reduce their environmental impact. I applaud these schools for their efforts to improve the economy and preserve the environment through their conscientious and innovative efforts.”

STEM education focuses on science, technology, engineering and math.

The awards were announced in Washington, D.C., by U.S. Education Secretary John King and Christy Goldfuss, the managing director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

Stoicovy said four members of her school were invited to Washington to receive the award and then will attend a ceremony in June at the state Department of Education.

Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo