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Three Bergen County schools receive sustainable building grants

Funded by the PSEG Foundation, the Sustainable Jersey for Schools small grants program awards grants for projects that include food waste recycling, sustainable building design, gardens and renewable energy systems.

Rutherford High School, Ann Blanche Smith Elementary School in Hillsdale and Hawes Elementary School in Ridgewood each received a $2,000 grant to help fund environmental initiatives.

“We are thrilled to receive this Sustainable Jersey grant,” said Frank Morano, Rutherford’s principal. “The grant will allow our school to provide outdoor classroom space, hydroponic and aquaponic gardening, and develop plant husbandry and sustainable agriculture concepts for our student body. This grant will foster a continued interest in the environment and vigilance towards the importance of sustainability and how it can be incorporated into daily life.”

Rutherford’s grant also will go toward restoring the school’s courtyard and implementing an environmental learning center.

According to Morano, administrators hope the courtyard and learning center will help broaden students’ understanding of the growth process of plants, as well as the global implications of population growth.

“We see that these grants give towns the rubric and resources they need to go through with environmental initiatives,” said Lisa Gleason, corporate responsibility stakeholder engagement specialist for PSEG. “Schools are the anchors of communities, and we want to engage students in the communities we do business in.”

Randall Solomon, the co-director of Sustainable Jersey, said PSEG has supported the grants program since it was founded in 2014.

“We recognize that you aren’t just sitting around in your schools twiddling your thumbs,” Solomon told the students and faculty members who attended the event, which was held in Maplewood at the board administration building at the School District of South Orange and Maplewood. “We recognize that you’re doing big things with your time and money, and we want to help.”

Ann Blanche Smith Elementary School is using the grant money to fund a portion of the school garden, which will double as an outdoor classroom.

“The future begins here at Ann Blanche Smith,” said Principal Angela Iskenderian. “It is our mission to educate our students so they can grow up to become global citizens who act responsibly, maintaining the resources we have in our beautiful world.”

Hawes Elementary School plans to use the grant money for a school garden, which teachers hope will help promote healthy eating choices among students.

In total, 31 schools and four school districts in 11 New Jersey counties were announced as grant recipients. Each school received a $2,000 grant, while school districts received $10,000 grants. Proposals were judged by an independent committee.

“Often, there isn’t enough money out there to complete these big sustainable projects,” Solomon said. “We hope to get to the point where it’s possible to give these $2,000 grants to every school that asks for one.”

*This story was originally published in The Record.

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