McKeesport Area to improve environmental health
By Jennifer R. Vertullo
Published: Thursday, June 20, 2013, 1:16 a.m.
As one of two Western Pennsylvania districts enrolled in the region's first initiative to improve environmental health conditions in K-12 schools, McKeesport Area is piloting the Healthy Schools Collaboration.
Moving forward on a partnership that began in the spring, collaborator Andrew Ellsworth met on Wednesday with a network of McKeesport Area administrators and teachers to begin developing an action plan for green cleaning and integrated pest management.
By the start of the 2013-14 school year, McKeesport Area participants will evaluate the district's current buildings and grounds procedures, many of which are in line with the Healthy Schools platform, and establish a timeline for modifying procedures and policies that will guide maintenance and teaching staff to be more conscious of environmental health.
“We have to start with a needs assessment,” McKeesport Area director of federal and state programs Michael Matta said. “We need to figure out what we already have in place and build from that a plan for what we need to be more efficient.”
Reaching out to the teaching staff could be as simple as presenting healthier options at each building's staff meetings, assistant high school principal Mary Ann Plance said.
“Awareness is a big thing right now,” Plance said. “We're becoming more aware by participating in these meetings, and we're going to share this information with our staff.”
With that awareness will come a significant buy-in, Superintendent Timothy Gabauer said.
“They'll start to see the bigger picture,” he said.
Gabauer said the Healthy Schools Collaboration seems to be something McKeesport Area staff will embrace. With issues of indoor air quality and environmental health being hot topics around the world, he said, people are open to “green” concepts that can be applied to daily routines for custodial and teaching staff.
“Being a science teacher, I have to clean labs daily,” Marla Hayes said. “Vinegar, baking soda and a few other ingredients make some of the best natural cleaners. People might not know that.”
Educating staff about clean, nontoxic solutions is a big part of starting a district-wide green cleaning movement, Ellsworth said. Because products are available on retail shelves, he said, consumers assume these items are fully tested and all effects are known.
“We have to be discriminating consumers,” he said. “Chemicals are in everything these days. We need to be more judicious in how we use them and how often.”
Ellsworth presented green cleaning practices and products that will be part of the McKeesport Area assessment. He also talked about integrated pest management that will focus on a prevention-based plan, rather than extermination.
“What we should be using as a last resort, we often see was the first plan of action,” Ellsworth said of business and household applications of pesticides, usually neurotoxins. “Prevention is the base of the pyramid. Chemical pesticides are at the very top.”
While McKeesport Area buildings may not have significant pest issues, Ellsworth said, the district should examine its procedures to be sure prevention is the prevailing theme.
McKeesport Area administrators said they are interested to see what progress develops from the Healthy Schools Collaboration.
“The McKeesport Area School District is proud to be teaming up with the Healthy Schools Collaboration to affirm that best practices are in place for a healthy environment in our buildings,” McKeesport Area public relations and communication specialist Kristen D. Giran said. “Bringing another positive program to our schools and creating awareness in our community during this exciting time seems like the perfect fit. Our staff is excited and motivated to work together in making this collaboration a success.”
With a brand new elementary building set to open in January 2014, the Twin Rivers Primary/Intermediate School will be a U.S. Green Building Council LEED-certified structure — an opportunity to try something new on an already environmentally favorable project.
“Thinking about your new building and how you can start fresh, hitting that with a brand new program is great,” Ellsworth said.
He suggested using a high performance cleaning program as a model can expand into other buildings in time.
Meetings are planned for every other month in McKeesport Area's participation in the Healthy Schools Collaboration. The next session will come before the start of school in August.
Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Duquesne holds line on tax hike
- Saccone under fire over gun bill
- Whitaker adopts budget
- Area charity founder to be on talk show
- CLO’s Christmas tradition ‘timeless’
- East McKeesport officials seek disaster funding
- McKeesport center part of Cal’s digital storytelling class project
- Experience the best teacher for Clairton student
- South Versailles approves budget
- Officials give OK to develop disaster plan
- Clairton to raise spending by $1M