2014-02-19 / Home

Kellman Brown wins green ribbon for pioneering environmental efforts

By JAYNE JACOVA FELD Voice staff


Kellman Brown Academy’s Seventh Grade Recycling Team (from left), Aviva Lerman, Julia Udell, Sophia Borowsky, and Ariella Hyman-Fessler Kellman Brown Academy’s Seventh Grade Recycling Team (from left), Aviva Lerman, Julia Udell, Sophia Borowsky, and Ariella Hyman-Fessler When Kellman Brown Academy leaders were in the throes of planning the school’s move to its new Voorhees location, they considered it a perfect opportunity to embed green practices and values into the very fabric of the school.

Starting with an empty and outdated warehouse, KBA not only retrofitted with efficiencies— including renewable linoleum floors and the use of recycled plastics for its bleachers— but expanded curriculum to make use of natural teaching grounds, including the school’s organic garden as well as partner Hazon’s camping and outdoor environmental program. The integration of iPads in recent years has also cut down significantly on the use of textbooks and paper flow going out to students’ homes.

The effort has paid off in so many ways, including the school’s recent designation as a New Jersey Green Ribbon school. The award recognizes the exact principles that KBA has enthusiastically embraced: Environmentally friendly practices that save money, reduce the school’s footprint, and incorporate green learning opportunities into the school day.

“This is literally a metaphor for the sustainability of Jewish day schools and our ethical obligations as Jews to preserve and to protect our environment and the resources we draw upon in the world in which we live,” said Head of School Rabbi Moshe Schwartz, noting that KBA is the first Jewish Day School in the state to be named.

The process to become a Green Ribbon School is rigorous. Although 20 schools across the state sent letters of intent to apply, only nine ended up completing the application, according to the Educational Information and Resource Center, the sponsoring and managing organization of the program. In the end, only two schools earned the honor: KBA and Three Bridges Elementary School in Readington.

“The importance for schools to begin to see sustainability as a means of financial and academic success cannot be emphasized enough in these times of severely restricted budgets and global climate change impact,” said Carol James, director of EIRC’s NJ Sustainable Schools Consortium.

Sandy Brown, who was the president of KBA’s board in the mid to late 2000s tasked with moving from the private day school’s Cherry Hill home of 50 years to a new location, recalls that the board was committed to creating a green school.

“It was not just for the obvious reasons, but because the building itself could become a perpetual teaching opportunity,” said Brown, whose family was a significant donor to the $11-million project. “It was a challenging time but well worth the effort.”

From the start, green resources were prioritized, Schwartz said. Besides the easier changes, like the use of low-flow sinks and energyefficient lighting, the builders followed a “no shovel in the ground” policy. Only one canopy was added to create a covered side entrance. Moreover, all materials that were not used were sold back into the marketplace, resulting in no materials being wasted.

As word has spread in the educational community about how such efficiencies have reduced the school’s bottom line, other independent schools have contacted Schwartz for tips and have toured the school, he said.

“This is absolutely fiscally responsible and therefore affords us opportunities to maximize dollars for the academic excellence of the school,” he added.

Valerie Yasner, co-chair of Hazon’s Philadelphia-region chapter, was thrilled that KBA has been recognized as a pioneer for practicing and teaching these Jewish values. Hazon, America’s largest Jewish environmental group, partners with the school in many ways, including advising the kosher lunch program and sitting on the school’s Green Team.

“How fortunate we all are to live in such a community where a private Jewish day school teaches our children responsibility for the environment, relates it to our tradition, and expands on that to caring for one another,” said Yasner, whose children attended KBA. “This is what connects all of us. It is truly winwin.”

KBA will be honored in Trenton later this spring. It’s also highly anticipated that the school will receive the federal government’s green ribbon designation during a ceremony in Washington, DC on July 22, Schwartz said. 

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