Schools notebook // Organics recycling growing in schools

Minneapolis Public Schools began a significant effort this fall to make sure more lunchroom waste goes to the compost pile instead of the trash heap.

A new effort dubbed Let’s R.O.T., for “Reduce Our Trash,” expanded organics recycling to 21 district schools this fall, up from just two last year. The initiative was just one part of the MPS Goes Green campaign to make changes with both environmental and financial benefits.

The 21 school sites include nine in Southwest. Burroughs Community School piloted an organics recycling program during the 2007–2008 school year, and was joined by Lake Harriet Community School last year.

School sites participating in the organics recycling program make an effort to separate food scraps and biodegradable materials like milk cartons and pizza boxes from other waste. Using a method demonstrated at Burroughs, lunchroom waste is disposed of in three separate bins for recyclable materials, organics and trash — three categories that also work nicely with the R.O.T. acronym.

Instead of going to a landfill where they decompose and produce methane, a greenhouse gas, organics are separated from the trash stream and composted. Compost is used in landscaping and as in-fill for construction projects.

The district has asked each of the sites participating in Let’s R.O.T. to designate an organics coordinator who will run their lunchroom recycling programs. Volunteers are needed at lunchtime to make sure the different categories of waste end up in the correct bins.

Public schools in Edina and Brooklyn Center are among a few other Hennepin County schools that recently started organics recycling programs.

The district produced Let’s R.O.T. informational flyers, an organics coordinator handbook and volunteer training information. All are posted on the MPS Goes Green section of the district website (mpsgoesgreen.mpls.k12.mn.us/).

The website includes information on other green programs in the district, including efforts to reduce school bus emissions, replace cleaning products with environmentally friendly alternatives and limit waste from school lunch packaging.

Also this fall, MPS expanded its mixed-recycling program district-wide. A variety of recyclable materials — from office paper to plastic bottles to aluminum cans — now can be deposited in one recycling bin.

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Education commissioner visits Kenny

KENNY — Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Alice Seagren kicked-off the school year with a Sept. 2 visit to Kenny Community School.

Kenny was one of only two district schools to make a turnaround on the latest state standardized math and reading tests. Seagren joined Deputy Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson and other district administrators in honoring Kenny’s accomplishments.

Kenny made Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP, on state standardized math and reading tests after missing its student achievement goals for several years. The tests measure schools’ progress toward achievement goals required under the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Students at Kenny made some of the greatest year-to-year gains in the district with their improved math and reading scores. The number of fifth-grade students who achieved a proficient score on the state science test increased by 34.5 percent, the largest gain in the district.

A video of Seagren’s visit was posted on the district’s website (mpls.k12.mn.us).

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Anonymous youth tip line launched

LINDEN HILLS — A new citywide anonymous tip line, part of an effort to involve youth in preventing school and community violence, received its official launch Sept. 14 at Southwest High School.

The tip line is a partnership between Minneapolis Public Schools, the city and the Minneapolis Police Department. The partnership has ties to the national Speak Up campaign that has worked to set up free, anonymous tip lines in Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and other cities.

Speak Up expanded this fall to New York City and towns in Texas and Tennessee, in addition to Minneapolis.

Minneapolis is the first city to add text-messaging technology to the Speak Up program. Students can communicate anonymously through texts with trained crisis counselors who, if necessary, can pass on information to police and district emergency management personnel.