One-third of the schools in Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board are certified EcoSchools. Above, the Eco Superheroes of St. Paul Catholic Elementary School in Lakefield, Ont., are a group of students who lead green initiatives at their Gold certified school and raise awareness about environmental issues in and outside the school community. Photo courtesy of Galen Eagle

Fund puts Ontario schools on path to green future

  • June 23, 2017

Ontario’s Ministry of Education wants the province’s schools to step up when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and it’s putting up $200 million to support that effort.

“This funding will speed up the replacement of inefficient building components and encourage schools and school boards to adopt energy-efficient technology,” said Heather Irwin, a spokesperson for the ministry. “Ontario is helping schools and school boards reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by supporting energy-efficient technologies.”

The money, part of the ministry’s $1.4 billion budget for school renewal and repairs this year, comes from the recently established Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF).

Catholic schools, which represent about one-third of all Ontario schools, will be receiving $42.15 million, or 21 per cent from the fund. Toronto’s public board is taking the biggest piece of the overall pie with $50 million.

“The GGRF has been allocated to school boards in proportion to their assessed school renewal needs,” Irwin said.

“Schools that have been built more recently, like many that belong to Catholic boards, have less repair and renewal needs as identified by third-party assessments.”

Galen Eagle, a spokesperson for the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board, also noted that Catholic boards tend to have newer schools than their public counterparts.

“I suspect that plays a huge role,” he said. “The buildings that are built today are far more energy-efficient than the buildings of the past.”

Twelve of the board’s 36 schools are recognized as eco schools by the Ontario EcoSchools organization, earning two platinum, seven gold and three silver ratings.

Energy saving methods employed within the board include motion sensors to automatically turn on and off the lights and the use of a centrally positioned control technician who monitors the heating and cooling of each school “in almost real time.”

But it isn’t just modern bricks and mortar combined with new technology which are working in the Catholic boards’ favour, Eagle said. Faith also is a factor.

“Certainly within the Catholic faith there are many connections” to environmentally-friendly actions, he said.

Eagle also credited the students for pushing the environmental movement.

“They have so much passion for the environment,” he said.

At St. Paul’s Elementary School in Lakefield, Ont., a gold star eco school, the students have established the Eco Superheroes league.

“They have costumes and they dress up, the senior students, and go around the school raising awareness,” Eagle said.

The “superheroes” also take time to turn off lights, check for leaking faucets and unplug electronic equipment not in use, he said.

Peterborough’s Catholic board, ranked third overall by the Sustainable Schools Program and first among Catholic boards earlier this month, will receive $526,690 from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.

Eagle said the board’s facility services will focus primarily on windows and boilers while the educators will continue to foster environmental stewardship.

“Part of our strategic plan, one of our priorities, is inspiring a commitment in students for stewardship of creation,” he said. “When you’re teaching and trying to create the future leaders of tomorrow, you can’t do that in 2017 without embedding a really strong passion and awareness of the environment.”

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