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School board unanimously votes in favor of 'green' school in Havana

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By Angye Morrison

“If educators don’t seize every opportunity to enrich the education of our children, who will?”

The question was posed by Nell Cunningham, one of many Havana residents gathered to support the proposal for building a “green” school in Havana during last Tuesday night’s school board special meeting, during which the board unanimously voted in favor of the proposal.

The proposal was first brought before the board during last month’s regular meeting, but board members felt more information was needed in order to make a decision.

The proposal is that the school board becomes the governing body to recommend that this project become a part of the regional stimulus package. The school, which would use 33 percent less energy, save 32 percent more water and reduce solid waste by 74 percent, could be built for $25 million.

Plans for the project would have to be done within 120 days, making it shovel-ready, a requirement to obtain stimulus dollars.

During last month’s meeting, school board members agreed that the idea is a good one but were concerned about up-front costs. the board argued that in today’s economy and with the budget cuts the school district is currently facing, any additional costs would be inconceivable.

The proposal was tabled pending further discussion and the provision of more information.

Last week, proposal supporters presented more statistics on green schools, along with a more detailed description of how the school would operate.

“We feel a wonderful idea that was bone now has meat on its bones,” said Shirley Aaron, one of the committee members who worked on the proposal.

The facility would, according to the proposal, continue to serve students in prekindergarten through fifth grades, in addition to addressing the needs of children 6 months to 3 years of age, including an Infant Scholar Program.

The infant program would require parent involvement, and would provide instruction on parenting and life skills.

Also on site would be a job corps center, which could be used by elementary school students as a career center, while being used simultaneously by parents to gain access to GED and other educational programs through partnerships with Tallahassee Community College, Florida State University and Florida A&M University.

The proposal also states that part of the purpose of the school is to draw children who are presently home or private schooled back to public education. This would be done, according to the proposal, by offering a 21st century curriculum taught by outstanding faculty.

In addition, the proposal stated that the up-front costs to the district should be minimal, “since funds will be sought through the grants process.”

“We anticipate that when the county receives funding for the high performance green school in Havana that 1/3 of a grant administrator’s time will be required to administer the project. Those funds should come from the grant source. Havana community members are ready to help write grants,” the proposal stated.

There was no indication in the proposal as to whether any grants are currently being sought.

The proposal’s last directive to the board was that a committee be formed to coordinate activities related to “selling this project.”

The process to request the stimulus funds needed will now begin, with the first step being to form a committee to work on strategy and prepare paperwork. School district Superintendent Reginald James has been charged with putting together the committee.