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September 22, 2014
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Evergreen School opens to wide acclaim One-of-a-kind environmental school offers unique lessons


There’s a brand new school that just opened that is green on the outside and green on the inside. It’s called the Evergreen Elementary School and it is the newest school in the Western Wayne school district. It is called Evergreen because it is a totally green school in construction and instruction. It will be attended by pre-Kindergarten to grade 5 students.

It was the host to 20 members of Sustainable Energy Education and Development Support (SEEDS), a Northeast Pennsylvania environmental group, who heard of its uniqueness and unusual educational programs on October 1.

The Evergreen Elementary School is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) building; LEED is a certification program and a process created by the U.S. Green Building Council to encourage building that enhances the environment. The school is the brainchild of Andrew Falonk, superintendent of Western Wayne School District, who worked on his dream of a green school for a number of years.

One of its main features is the geothermal heating system, which supplies heat in the winter and cooling in the summer. Under the school’s softball field, there are 72 wells, 400 feet deep. Pipes suspended within each well circulate water by pumps in the closed-loop system. Under the ground, the water takes on the temperature of the earth, around 55 degrees, and is boosted to a higher temperature with heat pumps, which provide heat to the 102,000-square-foot building.

“Even though we received some solid grants from the state, I can tell you that schools that are built like this equal the cost of conventional schools,” said Frank Ward, school district treasurer.

There are re-claimed wastewater and low-flow plumbing fixtures that reduce the water demand for the building. A green garden on the roof serves as an outdoor classroom and retains storm water that would otherwise need to be controlled elsewhere on the building site. The high efficiency air filtration system provides for the comfort and health of occupants.

Classrooms are designed to take advantage of natural daylight. Placement of glass is determined in each room to admit the most natural light, without allowing heat to enter the building. Automatic lighting controls reduce energy consumption by sensing occupancy and the amount of daylight.

The selection of building materials was based on recycled content and low emitting properties.

Treated wastewater, stored in two large sumps, is used to irrigate the sport fields and landscaping.
School as living environment

“We will use the school building itself as a learning ground in which students can actually see the effects of their actions on the environment,” said principal Ellen Faliskie. “It has been proven that schools that emphasize the environment have a greater attendance rate than other schools. We expect to see that happen here.”

Teachers will receive a lot of in-service training to help them use the school to enhance learning in math, science, reading and writing, she said. Teachers will also develop curricula that they will share with other schools that seek to use the environment as a teaching tool.

“We will utilize programs developed by environmentalists like John Jose, who is developing such programs for the Wayne Highland School District,” Faliskie said. “We are not only developing our own programs but are eager to find outstanding programs from other school districts throughout the country. Our engineering company, Burkavich Design of Clark Summit, will assist us in contacting similar networks of schools in other states, she said.

The school replaces two older schools: the Lake Elementary School and the Hamlin Elementary School.