by Georgia Charter Schools Association
Charles R. Drew Charter School has been named a 2018 National Green Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. The designation recognizes schools and districts that reduce environmental impact and costs; improve health and wellness; and offer high-quality environmental and sustainability education. Charles R. Drew Charter School is one of 46 schools nationally and five in Georgia selected for the honor.
Drew Charter School’s Junior and Senior Academy is LEED Gold certified. The Junior and Senior Academy also has an environmental dashboard that shows real-time data on the amount of water and electricity used. The dashboard also provides data on the amount of solar power captured by the solar panels on the building’s roof. Currently, the solar panels provide approximately 15 percent of Drew’s energy needs. The data is used to provide instruction and is used for quantitative data for student projects and presentations.
The school’s elementary campus, which serves approximately 1,000 students, has an ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager score of 93. Meanwhile, the school’s Junior and Senior Academy scores 88. ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager is used to track energy usage, water consumption and greenhouse gas emission for one or more buildings.
The school also had Astroturf installed on the playground of its elementary campus to reduce watering needs, lessen the amount of runoff and landscaping, and increase the usability of the playground for students. The Elementary Academy has a cistern in its courtyard where water is collected and used on campus. The Elementary Academy also has very little irrigation. Water in the sprinkler system at the Junior and Senior Academy is recovered from lake water a nearby golf course. All of the school’s students and faculty are protected from contaminants in the water due to backflow filtration. Water filters and water bottle filling stations are used in water foundations throughout the entire Junior and Senior Academy.
Eighty percent of cleaning supplies used by the school are Green Seal certified. Drew also uses an exterminator that applies Mother Earth and organic pesticides whenever possible. The school monitors carbon dioxide and mitigates mold and additional air quality issues through preventative maintenance.
In addition to reducing environmental impact and costs, the public charter school focuses on wellness. Drew’s efforts include quarterly Walk to School Days that will soon be incorporated monthly. The school also gives preference to students in surrounding communities, which makes it easier for families to walk and bike to school. The school also offers programs and classes throughout the school year that focus on health and wellness. They include health, dance, swimming and physical education. Drew uses Playworks, which builds social and emotional skills during daily recess for students in Pre-K through the fifth grade. Martial arts, yoga, dance, capoeira, flag football, soccer, sports conditioning, and golf are among the school’s affordable and well-attended afterschool programs.
The school also has an entire committee devoted to health and wellness. The Healthy You, Healthy Drew (HYHD) committee consists of faculty and staff, the school’s PTA, and representatives from a number of East Lake partners, including the East Lake Healthy Connections program and the East Lake Family YMCA. The committee works to bring programming and activities such as fresh fruit and vegetable tastings, cooking demonstrations, farmers markets, staff wellness events and meditation events to the entire school community.