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Chappaqua Schools Showcase Green Initiatives

CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. – The Chappaqua Central School District held its biannual Green Committee meeting on Thursday, with representatives from all six schools reporting on the progress, and challenges, of new environmentally friendly initiatives.

John Chow, assistant superintendent for business, said the district's initiatives are having clear results, as all of its buildings reported a reduction in energy use. The eight buildings used 693,288 fewer kilowatt-hours in 2011 than in 2010. Chow also said the district boasted a large reduction in the amount of oil it used in 2011-12.

"It was a joint effort between nature and our effort," Chow said.

One of the biggest changes the district recently made to continue its energy reduction was the installation of light sensors at some of the schools during spring break.

"The light sensors are working out. I do have to raise my hand once or twice during the day, but I'm OK with that," said Martin Fitzgerald, principal of Robert E. Bell Middle School.

School board member Jeffrey Mester said he would like to see the district cut down on its paper usage and instead give students the option of receiving assignments or packets in PDF form.

Despite the environmental benefits of going paperless, committee members expressed reservations about allowing students to personally bring iPads and laptops to class. Horace Greeley Principal Andrew Selesnick, however, said the high school will pilot a paperless iPad program in its LIFE School in 2012-13.

Greeley is also trying to reduce usage of plastic bottles by handing out reusable bottles to freshmen and increasing the number of water spouts in the school. Selesnick said the biggest difficulty his school faces is with composting.

"When they come to Greeley, they get acculturated into the culture that exists here, which is not very good about recycling, composting," he said.

Elementary school principals said they have begun to target students when they are younger so proper recycling and composting becomes second-nature.

In addition to school administrators, students also had a voice at Thursday's meeting. Junior Ethan Fuirst said his group, Students and Teachers for Our Planet, was successful in its effort to collect plastic bottle caps.

Fuirst said the group saw a large increase in donations by implementing a program in which each donated cap benefited a cancer patient.

"We were able to bring a social aspect into what is primarily environmental actions that we do," Fuirst said.

Realizing the district could always do more, Chow stressed that implementing green initiatives such as proper composting is a marathon and not a sprint.

"As long as we are improving, I think that's hope," Chow said. "I really look at this as one body. We are here together, we have one purpose. It's not as a town or a school or PTA, we're really all just together."

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