FUHSD honored with state award for sustainability

District receives California Green Ribbon Schools silver award

FUHSD received the silver Green Ribbon Schools award for energy efficiency on April 20. This award, superintendent Graham Clark said, has four levels, with green being the highest level.

FUHSD takes steps toward becoming greener as a district, superintendent Graham Clark said. (Photo from Stanley Kou)

Clark said that given this was FUHSD’s first time applying, achieving the silver level serves as a milestone for the district and brings a sense of optimism to the community given the hard work and dedication they put into being more sustainable. 

“There are only about six districts in the state that are at that level, so we’re pretty excited about that,” Clark said. “We have been improving [due to] a group of students, a lot of them HHS students, trying to encourage schools, city governments and all government agencies to be more efficient and to show more leadership.”

Achieving the silver award on the first application was no small feat, especially given the many constraints that made applying for the award challenging, FUHSD Board of Trustees president Rosa Kim said. 

“This is really unusual as a first [time] applicant,” Kim said. “When we tried to apply, [the application window] was a short period of time, but we thought we could try.”

Despite being one of the few schools in the state to achieve silver, student board representative, junior Elisa Floyd said the district is looking at ways for FUHSD to improve and achieve the highest rank as a Green Ribbon School next year. 

“The award comes with various benefits, which mainly include a lot of funding and support,” Floyd said. 

Another motivating factor to do well next year is the possible addition of a new energy-efficiency course at HHS that some schools across California already provide to their student bodies, Floyd said. 

“A big reason we wanted to apply for this was to get a climate curriculum going,” Floyd said. “There are a lot of school districts, in Menlo Park and Palo Alto, that are adopting [this] curriculum, but we don’t have that yet.”

FUHSD board of trustees member Stanley Kou said there was an awards ceremony held in Rivendell, California to recognize schools that obtained this achievement.

Kou said he went with other district superintendents, along with a science teacher from Monta Vista to Santiago STEAM Magnet Elementary School for the award ceremony. 

To reach their goal and receive these benefits, however, the district must implement numerous changes in the equipment used in its facilities to become more environmentally friendly, Floyd said. 

“We are trying to become more energy efficient [by having] solar power and installing EV chargers,” Clark said.  “Also, we’re modernizing, trying to move away from gas to electric devices, which can generate more power.”

The award also considers other aspects in schools where they can increase sustainability, such as in water consumption and waste production. 

Clark said the district looks to make more efficient use of water in landscaping by instead using turf since many schools in the district contain three fields, which use a lot of water. 

Despite the current success, the district plans to improve school facilities and overall increase energy efficiency to ultimately achieve the green award.

“This is not the end of this kind of work, it is the [beginning],” Kim said. “We’re very encouraged this time, [and] we’re [always] working to improve our sustainability.”