Vernon Secondary School students Sydney Cochrane (left) and Tanner Lorenson

Vernon Secondary School students Sydney Cochrane (left) and Tanner Lorenson

VSS goes green

Vernon's newest school will also be its greenest school

Vernon’s newest school will also be its greenest school. The new Vernon Secondary School is being built to high environmental standards.

“We’re taking this opportunity to incorporate more green features through the Go Green Project. These added features are not part of the capital budget for the new school and we will be seeking grants and doing fundraising,” said vice-principal Tony Dolinar at the school’s activities leading up to Earth Day.

The initiative for the Go Green Project came from cafeteria teacher Sandi Slizak and PAC president Wendy Aasen.

Consultants Gordon Hiebert and Jana MacNab of Element Eco-Design in Vernon researched and developed the plan for the project. This will include a school-wide composting system using the “Green Good” composter, a greenhouse to grow food to be used in the cafeteria, a school garden, a community garden and outdoor instructional space. There will also be a Food Forest with fruit and nut trees and berry bushes and a Grad Garden where each graduating class can plant a garden to be used the following fall by students still at the school.

The initial cost for the Go Green Project will be $132,000 to get set up, with the composter costing $45,000. Once the project is operating it will be self-sustaining.

The school is adding an elective environmental leadership course for Grades 9-12 that will run the entire school year. The course, based on the B.C. Curriculum Sustainable Resources course, will be offered outside the regular time table with instructor Nathan Bartel. This is in addition to the environmental studies content presently included in other courses.

“The students are already signing up for it. We will be looking at our footprint and how we can keep everything green as well as learning about composting, recycling, grant applications and promoting environmental programs,” said Bartel.

“We have had a lot of community interest and support from organizations like Okanagan College, UBC-O and the Allan Brooks Centre, as well as from businesses and professionals. We hope to be able to call on the expertise that there is in this area.”

Students are enthusiastic about the new course and the green direction the school is taking.

“I like it that we’re going green. This is such a big problem and we can do something to help make it better. I like the idea of the outdoor classroom. I will be taking the environmental leadership course for sure,” said Sydney Cochrane, Grade 9.

Tanner Lorenson, also a Grade 9 student who will be taking the course, said: “I don’t know of any other school that does this. It’s such a different course and we’re really excited to have it here. It’s going to be great.”

Slizak has started some tomatoes and herbs to be used in the cafeteria program, which offers the first year of ACE-IT, a three-year apprenticeship dual credit chef program, as well as a cafeteria course.

“We are looking for support in the form of materials, labour and money. The Go Green Project can be self-supporting but we need a boost to get started. We’ve had a lot of interest in the Community Garden plots already,” she said.

There is currently a small composting program at the school but the new industrial composter will serve the 950 students as well as staff members, producing compost in 48 hours. This will provide enough for the program needs with some left over to be sold.

“We can see so much happening from here,” said Aasen. “We will have a link with the OC Demonstration Garden and other community organizations. We also want to link with the elementary schools our students come from with education and information. We got a grant from UBCM and we’re applying for every grant we can and we’ll be actively fundraising as well as looking for donations,” she said.

Representatives of the City of Vernon, RDNO, Interior Health, Community Policing, Community Futures, School District 22 and CUPE were also involved in the development of the Go Green Project.

For more information about the project, contact Slizak at 250-545-0701 or Donations can be made to Vernon Secondary School Go Green Project by mail or in person at 2303-18 Street, Vernon, V1T 3Z9. Tax receipts are available.