Mount Prospect early learning center, Huntley district recognized as Green Ribbon schools

A suburban school district and an early learning center have been named green ribbon schools by the U.S. Department of Education.

Prairie Trails School, an early learning center in River Trails School District 26, and Huntley Community School District 158 are being recognized for their efforts to promote sustainability, reduce waste and provide environmental education to students. The U.S. Department of Education on Thursday announced the list of green ribbon winners, which includes 26 schools, 11 school districts and four universities or colleges. The honorees will be recognized at an August ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Both Prairie Trails and Huntley Community School District 158 were recipients of the Illinois Green Ribbon School Award from the Illinois State Board of Education.

A renovation of Prairie Trails School, which was completed in 2021, made it the first net-zero energy facility in Mount Prospect. The project included solar panels, a permeable paver parking lot and an energy efficient HVAC system. The school also features an award-winning natural playground with sandpits, a climbing wall and an outdoor learning area.

"Prairie Trails is home to our district's youngest learners and we feel a responsibility to ensure they grow up in a healthy environment," Principal Amy Veytsman said. "At the same time, we want them to walk out of here with an understanding about how each of us can do our part to protect the planet."

Over the last 14 years, Huntley Community School District 158 has made changes at its buildings to promote efficiency. The district has installed LED lighting and HVAC systems that can sense when a room is not being used and adjust temperatures accordingly. The district also replaced about a third of its buses with propane-fueled buses, and used a grant to purchase four electric buses.

Huntley 158 Superintendent Scott Rowe said the district has seen a savings of about $1.5 million annually in energy costs since switching its lighting and HVAC systems and anticipates a savings in maintenance of school buses as it continues to transition to propane or electric buses.

Rowe said the changes not only benefit the environment, but they also help with the budget.

"These dollars can be diverted back to our classrooms with our students and our teachers, where it belongs," Rowe said.

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