Glendale — Glen Hills Middle School is among two schools in the state and 47 schools in the country to be recognized as 2016 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools.

The program, in its fifth year, recognizes schools that improve the health of students, cut energy costs and promote environmental sustainability.

Glen Hills received a LEED Gold for Existing Buildings certification in 2013 for its 43-year-old facility. The building has solar panels on the roof that heat the pool. The lighting is LED-based, with motion detectors in all classrooms, and all cafeteria waste is composted. Low-flow toilets and energy-efficient water fountains are among some of the other energy-efficient features in the building.

The school's 15-student 'green team' even conducts classroom audits, going to each classroom to make sure teachers and students are composting and recycling. The team is led by seventh-grade teachers Katie Staacke and Lauren Picado, but they say the students have taken ownership of the initiative.

'We want to inspire them to make good choices when it comes to our Earth,' Staacke said. 'There are small things we can do in our day-to-day life, and we hope these students will take what they have learned and teach others to become more sustainable on the local, state and national level. They are excited about the award and what they've done, and they are motivated to do more.'

Stacke and Picado are also the advisors of the school's National Junior Honor Society chapter, which raises money to purchase trees and recycling bins, and helps to install pavers to control a muddy area by the pool doors. On top of the pavers, they added wooden benches with planter boxes. The student group also helps with cleanup efforts at Parkway School and Kletzsch Park.

Glen Hills was recognized as a Sugar Maple — the highest recognition possible, when Staacke, Picado and retired operations director Jim Beckmann applied to the state's Green and Healthy Schools program. State officials helped Glen Hills staff apply to the Green Ribbon Schools program through the U.S. Department of Education.

In addition to environmental sustainability, the award also recognizes the health of children. Students participate in more physical education per week than required by the state. All foods and beverages sold during the school day meet the USDA's Smart Snacks in School nutrition standards, and the school has a policy for healthy classroom snacks.

Glen Hills and other winning Wisconsin schools were honored at an event at RiverEdge Nature Center on April 30. They will also be invited to a national recognition event in Washington, D.C., in July.

'Wisconsin's environmental tradition continues with this year's Green Ribbon recipients,' State Superintendent Tony Evers said. 'They are out front on reducing their environmental impact and utility costs, improving the health and wellness of students and staff members, and ensuring effective sustainability education efforts that will ensure the wellbeing of future generations.'

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