The U.S. Department of Education has announced Bayard Public Schools is among the 2020 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School District Sustainability Awardees.
Bayard Public Schools was nominated by the Nebraska Department of Education. Bayard Public Schools continuously strives to overcome many of the typical challenges faced by small rural schools in addressing the three pillars of Green Ribbon Schools. The school district utilizes a variety of strategic partnerships and long-term improvement planning and action to provide a high-quality learning environment for students and staff.
Although the school district has limited staffing and human resources, the district has been able to leverage quality partnerships to make significant strides in efforts to be efficient in our use of resources. These partnerships have included the Natural Resources District, the Nebraska Forrest Service, the City of Bayard, the Nebraska Department of Environment and Energy, and private companies. Most recently, the school began partnering with the local sanitation company, Waste Connections, to place a large recycling receptacle on our school property so students and staff can engage in on-site recycling.
In spite of a small population and significant distances to urban amenities, Bayard Public Schools has embraced opportunities to engage in improvements to the school environment and educational opportunities for students. These changes, enacted over the past decade and aligned to the three Green Ribbon Schools pillars, have led to a more productive educational environment that supports learning and wellness, in spite of continuing rural community challenges.
Efforts to reduce environmental impact and costs have focused primarily on transitioning to more efficient lighting and reducing water consumption. The school district has replaced inefficient lighting with energy efficient LED lighting in classrooms, gymnasiums, the auditorium, hallways, offices, outdoor security lighting and in the bus barn. Throughout the school district bathrooms have been upgraded to sensor-based water fixtures that reduce water consumption. Throughout the school district water bottle filler stations have replaced most of the traditional drinking fountains in an effort to reduce the use of disposable plastic bottles.
To reduce waste, the school district has partnered with the local sanitation company to provide an on-site recycling receptacle, and has engaged in extensive recycling of obsolete computers and other electronic equipment. Students lead recycling efforts at the elementary and junior high levels. The school district has participated in the Nebraska Diesel Emission Mitigation Program to decommission older school buses and replace them with more efficient buses that emit fewer emissions.
Efforts to improve health and wellness of students and staff have been extensive. Several efforts to improve health and wellness were the result of the school district engaging in a Coordinated School Health program. These have included utilization of a Grab and Go/Breakfast in the Classroom program, development of an afterschool snack program for students in all grades, utilization of a “recess before lunch” schedule, and installation of Project Fit America fitness equipment. Staff members participate in a wellness program with opportunities for health monitoring, and the school district has twice been recognized with the Governor’s Award for Workplace Wellness. The school district has participated in the Nebraska School Radon Testing Program to ensure that staff and students are breathing air that is free from the dangers of radon exposure.
The school district provides students with many hands-on opportunities to engage in effective environmental and sustainability education incorporating STEM, Civics, and green career pathways through the use of a newly constructed greenhouse, use of an aquaponics system to grow fish and vegetables that are utilized in the school nutrition program, and utilization of a school garden. Students engage in a “community cleanup day” to instill civic pride and responsibility. Students participate in a career day which includes opportunities to learn about green career pathways, in addition to opportunities to visit green energy facilities, including solar and wind farms.
Bayard Public Schools exemplifies the possibilities that exist in a rural school community for active improvement and achievement in the three pillars of Green Ribbon Schools. Bayard Public Schools is committed to continuing to be effective and efficient in the use of limited resources in pursuit of educational excellence for students, staff, and the broader community.
Dr. Travis Miller, Superintendent of Schools, shared his pride in the collective efforts of the school district. “Being recognized as a Green Ribbon School District is the culmination of a decade of work at all levels of our organization. This recognition is a result of the leadership long-term investments by the Board of Education in efficiency and a healthy learning environment for students. Our custodial and maintenance team and transportation team have provided leadership through intentional improvements to the efficiency of our facilities and replacement of older buses with more efficient modern buses. Our teachers and support staff are leaders in the classroom, and our students provide leadership in our school through their efforts to provide a quality recycling program. Our principals, in cooperation with our school nurse, provide quality leadership for wellbeing in each building, and Mrs. Kelley Rice, Bayard Jr./Sr. High School Principals, in particular, is commended for her leadership in authoring our district’s application for this honor. It is deeply rewarding to see the efforts of our entire team being recognized with such a prestigious award.”
Across the country, 39 schools, 11 districts, and five postsecondary institutions are being honored for their innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness, and ensure effective sustainability education.
The honorees were named from a pool of candidates nominated by 27 states. The selectees include 28 public schools, including three magnet schools and four charter schools, as well as 11 nonpublic schools. Forty-five percent of the 2020 honorees serve a disadvantaged student body.
The list of all selected schools, districts, colleges, and universities, as well as their nomination packages, can be found . A report with highlights on the 55 honorees can be found . More information on the federal recognition award can be found . Resources for all schools to move toward the three Pillars can be found .