At Workshop 2014, the New Jersey School Boards Association (NJSBA) and Sustainable Jersey will launch a voluntary certification-recognition program for school districts in New Jersey. Starting in October, school districts across the state will be able to register for this free program that will provide training, technical support and grant funding to kick start or maintain a district’s sustainability initiatives.

To showcase the program launch and help schools get started, Sustainable Jersey for Schools program staff along with partners from the New Jersey School Boards Association, the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, the New Jersey Buildings and Grounds Association and the New Jersey Department of Education, will be offering five group sessions throughout Workshop 2014.

These sessions will provide a comprehensive overview of how to get registered and started with Sustainable Jersey for Schools. The sessions are tailored for board leadership, superintendents and principals, business administrators and facilities and buildings and grounds managers.

A “Getting Registered” guide will provide direction on how to get started in the program. The Sustainable Jersey for Schools program will have two booths at Workshop 2014 where staff will answer questions. Look for program staff on the main floor as well as in the STEM and Sustainability area.

Why Get Certified?

Sustainable Jersey for Schools will allow school districts to pursue a balanced sustainability program one policy, program or resource audit at a time. Your district can start slowly and see how each small step yields meaningful gains. Participating schools will earn points for certain actions, such as performing energy audits, establishing green cleaning programs and boosting recycling efforts.

Districts and schools that are certified through Sustainable Jersey for Schools will implement practices that lead to cost savings in energy, water and garbage bills. The program will help district’s improve efficiency, cut waste and free up money for the classroom.

Participating districts will be alerted to available grant money and have access to clear “how to” guidance and New Jersey-specific tools and resources for developing a comprehensive sustainable school program. Regular optional training workshops, webinars and leadership meetings will provide your school with connections to the experts in important school sustainability issues.

Sustainable practices and the program’s certification actions have the potential to increase academic performance. There is a significant amount of research that children learn best when there is good natural classroom light and excellent indoor air quality. In addition, sustainable practices help create healthier learning environments that lower illness and absenteeism. Good teachers may be an important factor in improving student performance, but healthy and welcoming schools can also contribute significantly.

New Jersey is facing issues of climate change, energy crises, increasing childhood asthma and environmental pollution. Schools need to be a part of the solution to these challenges and demonstrate their commitment to environmental stewardship. Student learning will be enriched through hands-on experiential learning opportunities that link a wide range of STEM and sustainability issues to classroom and service learning opportunities.

The Sustainable Jersey for Schools actions will cover a wide range of topic areas, focusing on people, prosperity and the planet. The vast majority – 85 percent – of all New Jersey municipalities are already working in these areas by participating in the Sustainable Jersey municipal certification program. By becoming a Sustainable Jersey for Schools certified district, you align your district with the community’s values while saving both school district and natural resources. This voluntary certification program will be open to all New Jersey public schools beginning in late October 2014.