13 May 2012
The Franklin County campus is named Green Ribbon School Wednesday, April 25, 2012 By JOEL TURNER - Staff Writer Franklin County's Gereau Center is one of 78 schools in 29 states that have received the first National Green Ribbon Schools awards. The awards were announced in Washington, D.C., Monday by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "Science, environmental and outdoor education play a central role in providing children with a well-rounded education, helping them prepare for the future," Duncan said. "U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools demonstrate compelling examples of the ways schools can help children build real-world skill sets, cut school costs and provide healthy learning environments," he said. The National Green Ribbon Schools are "protecting our children's health and opening up environmental educational opportunities for students," Duncan added. The Gereau Center includes the Center for Energy Efficient Design (CEED), the first public school building in the United States with Passivhaus technology and standards to achieve certification from the Passive House Institute US. The CEED, the brainchild of teachers John Richardson and Neil Sigmon, was eight years in the planning and construction phases and cost approximately $1.4 million, with more than $400,000 in-kind donations from building firms and other businesses. The CEED is a net zero, energy-efficient building. Using technologies of PassivHaus design, earth berming, south facing solar orientation, thermal mass, geothermal energy, photovaltaics, solar hot water heaters, electricity-producing wind turbines, rainwater harvesting, energy efficient appliances and daylighting, the building produces more energy than it needs to operate. Not only is the CEED saving energy, but it is an airtight structure with an air exchanger that ensures that there is is constant circulation of air from the outside. The Gereau Center is one of only two schools in Virginia to receive the national award. The other school was Fishburn Park Elementary School in Roanoke City. Kevin Bezy, principal of the Gereau Center, said that the school's teachers and staff deserve credit for the award. In an email to the staff, Bezy said that "all of your had a part in this award because of the teaching and activities that you conduct regularly, but also by the example that you give in your daily practices and in the way you portray stewardship." Bezy said that the national award is a "significant milestone in the history of the Gereau Center." The Gereau Center was selected earlier by Virginia's Green Ribbon Schools Selection Team as one of the state's three nominees for the national awards. Linda Wallinger, state assistant superintendent for instruction, notified Franklin County school officials about the Gereau Center's nomination for a national award. Thirty-eight states participate in the national awards program by the United States Department of Education. The awards recognize schools that save energy, reduce costs, feature environmentally sustainable learning spaces, protect health, foster wellness and offer environmental education.