2019 | Schools

Community Calls on MCPS To Reduce Impact of Operations on Climate

83% of school system’s greenhouse gas emissions from electricity, bus fuel

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Solar panels on the roof of Lakelands Park Middle School in Gaithersburg.

Via Montgomery county public schools

Community members are urging Montgomery County Public Schools to work harder to reduce the impact of its daily school operations on the climate.

An online petition gathered more than 200 signatures in three days. It called on MCPS officials to reduce the district’s carbon footprint by developing a plan to ensure new school buildings have zero greenhouse gas emissions, use electric school buses, incorporate climate change education for high school students and establish a student-led committee to suggest policies for a “low-greenhouse gas lifestyle.”

“In Montgomery County (MOCO), the public school system (MCPS) is a major polluter,” the petition says. “The two biggest sources of MCPS greenhouse gases are from heating, cooling, and powering buildings and transportation.”

According to MCPS data, 83% of its greenhouse gas emissions in 2017 were a result of electricity and bus fleet fuel.

In 2017, the County Council declared a climate emergency and set a goal of eliminating 80% of the county’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2027.

A school system spokesman said MCPS officials are working closely with county government officials to “further the impact of our environmental sustainability efforts.”

The spokesman pointed to a Board of Education resolution passed this year recognizing the “significant threat” of climate change and reiterating the board’s commitment to “pursue energy conservation efforts and preserve natural resources, while providing a safe and comfortable learning environment.”

Additionally, MCPS publishes an annual environmental sustainability plan that details the school system’s impact on climate change and actions it will take to address climate concerns locally.

“Additionally, 8 MCPS schools have earned National Green Ribbon awards for their commitment to environmental sustainability and 17 schools host solar panels, making MCPS a leader on solar power among school districts in Maryland,” spokesman Derek Turner said in a statement. “Moreover, the topic of climate change is taught in all MCPS schools as part of the Next Generation Science Standards, Maryland Environmental Literacy Standards, and MCPS Outdoor Environmental Education Program.”

A bill the state legislature passed in April encourages state school systems to use “zero emission vehicles,” defined as a bus that does not produce any tailpipe or evaporative emissions, as most traditional school buses do. MCPS is among a handful of school districts that volunteered to pilot the initiative.

The petition also urges MCPS to pass a proposed policy allowing students three unexcused absences per year to participate in civic activities, such as lobbying and protests. The proposed policy was tabled in January, after lengthy debate among school members about the impact on attendance. It has not been scheduled for further discussion.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com