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U.S. Department of Education visitors tour R.I. schools

Officials tour Green Ribbon Award-winning schools in Providence

As the second stop on their national “Education Built to Last” tour, two officials from the U.S. Department of Education visited Providence today (July 29, 2013) to observe best practices in school design, construction, operations, and management and to receive input as to how the U.S. Department of Education can encourage innovation and improvement regarding school facilities. 

The officials, Green Ribbon Schools Director Andrea Falken and Donald Yu, Special Advisor to the Secretary of Education, visited Rhode Island in part because the state has four Green Ribbon Schools: The Compass School (a charter public school in South Kingstown) and three Providence schools: Classical High School, Nathan Bishop Middle School, and the Providence Career and Technical Academy. The U.S. Department of Education honors schools with a Green Ribbon Award “for their exemplary efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, promote better health, and ensure effective environmental education, including civics and green career pathways.”

During a panel discussion this morning, at the Providence Career and Technical Academy, on best practices in school design and construction, Donald Yu, of the U.S. Department of Education, said he and Andrea Falken “want to extend congratulations for all of the excellent work going on in Providence and in Rhode Island.” He said that their job “is to take the ideas from New England  and to share [them] with the rest of the country.”

Addressing the panelists and an audience of about 70 people, Governor Lincoln D. Chafee said: “The commitment is here in my administration to have the best schools possible on every level, and we are working with Commissioner Gist on doing that.”

Reflecting on the Providence Career and Technical Academy and the Green Ribbon program, Senator Jack Reed noted that “Rhode Island is committed to the environment and to the recognition of the values that we have in our state, which is reflected in this school and in what they are doing” to advance best practices in school design. 

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said that “it is important that we focus on having our schools not only look but act the way they should – a school building that is green is not only better for kids, it’s also cheaper to run.”

Providence Mayor Angel Taveras recognized that several students were in attendance, and he commended them for their interest. “The school environment is really about the students and their learning,” he said. 

Green schools are “excellent environments for students and great investments for our communities,” said Deborah A. Gist, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “Green schools provide plenty of light and excellent air circulation and climate control. Green schools save taxpayer dollars – through economies during construction and through long-term savings on energy and utility costs. Green schools can also serve as models for student explorations in science, ecology, engineering, and other career-and-technical fields. We are proud to be on the forefront of this work.”

The U.S. Department of Education officials toured the Green Ribbon schools in Providence this morning before travelling to Connecticut for the next stop on their national tour.