High school trying to step up recycling

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
March 19, 2008

NORTH BRANFORD — The high school has started an environmental club and is hoping to buy more than 50 new recycling bins, in response to a custodian’s complaint that litter around the school was creating “unsafe working conditions.”

The Board of Education in January denied the grievance complaint the custodian filed against the school district, but administrators are now working with the school’s custodians to address the concerns.

North Branford High School Principal Michele Saulis said that most of the litter she sees at the school is bottles and cans that students leave on the ground.

The school has only one recycling bin for bottles and cans, while each classroom has a bin for recycling paper.

“I think part of the problem is that people are just not educated in realizing why it’s important in putting only bottles and cans in there, because if you put something else in there then it’s considered contaminated and we cannot recycle it,” Saulis said. “So we need to educate the student body (and) we need to make it convenient to recycle by purchasing these containers.”

Saulis said she and a science teacher at the high school, Rebekah Fox, have been leading the effort to start the environmental club. The group started meeting in early February and has 14 student members.

The club is working on two recycling efforts. The first is to place a bin to recycle bottles and cans in every classroom, plus three larger bins in the school’s common areas. Saulis said the classroom bins cost $68 each, but the school may be able to get a bulk discount for the 48 classrooms.

Club members are also planning to purchase reusable water bottles emblazoned with North Branford High School’s logo to hand out to any student who wears the color green on Earth Day, April 22. The owners of the Big Y grocery store recently donated $500 to every school, and Saulis said the club will use that money for the water bottles.

“I think that there’s a greater trend to keep drinking water throughout the day because of people being more aware of it as a good, healthy practice, and as the principal I would like to promote that,” she said. “I’m not going to ban water bottles, and I think it’s good for kids to stay hydrated, especially athletes.”

At January’s Board of Education meeting concerning the custodial grievance, union representative Leonard LaLuna asked administrators to enforce rules barring students from taking food and drinks out of the cafeteria. Saulis said that students are allowed to have water bottles outside of the cafeteria area.

In the grievance, custodian Nick Mancini said that he slipped on a water bottle that was left on a stairwell and almost fell. Mancini was not injured.

Superintendent of Schools Robert Wolfe denied the grievance, writing in a response that the accident was an isolated incident and the school “is adequately equipped with refuse receptacles and students are appropriately informed that it is not acceptable behavior to litter the school building.”

After hearing from the union representative, the Board of Education upheld Wolfe’s decision, but asked the administration to meet with students and custodians to discuss improved recycling and determine whether more trash and recycling bins were needed.

Larry Dorman, a spokesman for Council 4 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which includes the school district’s custodial union, said the union is satisfied with the school’s efforts to reduce the numbers of bottles in the hallways.

“Our understanding is that the administration is going to try and police the situation more vigorously, so we will watch and we’ll monitor the situation and make sure that that happens,” Dorman said. “We raised an important safety issue and we’ll watch and see what happens.”

Saulis said the environmental club met with custodians this week to talk about the recycling.

“I think that people just didn’t know where to put them — they didn’t want to throw them out because they know they’re recyclable, and yet we didn’t have the recycling bins,” she said. “(Recycling) is a good thing for our school and a good thing for the environment.”

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