Published May 21, 2024

The San Mateo County Office of Education announced the 18 standout leaders who received 2023-24 Sustainable and Climate-Ready Schools (SCRS) Challenge awards for their efforts to create sustainable school communities during the2023-24 school year. 

The award recognizes students, administrators, teachers, and community members who have organized projects that address one or more sustainability goals drawn from the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and One Planet Living Framework. Each project also focuses on increasing the sustainability of campus facilities and operations sustainability, creating curriculum that addresses environmental topics, and/or building community environmental awareness.

Participants submitted a wide variety of projects such as district-wide efforts to institutionalize sustainability efforts, living schoolyards, zero waste initiatives, and environmental-based solutionary teaching and learning. These standout leaders are being recognized across 11 of the public school districts, in addition to private schools and community organizations, from across San Mateo County.

Five of these leaders received a financial award, funded by Peninsula Clean Energy, to support the next phase of their projects. Learn more about the submissions below.

Financial Award Winners

A rendering of a buildingJefferson Union High School District

Adult Education Building LEED Certification

The Jefferson Union High School District Adult Transition Program (ATP) and Adult Education (AE) program are relocating from an inadequate facility to a new campus, supported by community-approved bond funds. Emphasizing student needs, a welcoming environment, and sustainability, the design process involved input from district leaders and program staff. The ATP serves adult students aged 18-22 with learning differences, focusing on independent living and vocational skills. Scheduled to open in July 2024, the new campus aims for LEED Gold status, featuring solar panels, electric vehicle chargers, energy-efficient HVAC systems, and maximized natural lighting through large windows. By prioritizing sustainability and transitioning to an all-electric system, the district is closer to meeting its environmental goals.

Read more about this project.

People standing in a parking lot underneath solar panelsRavenswood City School District

Ravenswood Facilities Long-Term Sustainability

Ravenswood City School District is making significant strides in sustainability. Achieving 100% renewable energy with solar panels and Peninsula Clean Energy’s renewable plan, it has reduced energy usage through LED lights and sensors while electrifying campuses and improving air quality. Installing EV chargers and bike racks promotes green transportation, while rain barrels and sustainable landscaping reduce water use. Investing in living schoolyards and green spaces, supported by grants, enhances environmental education. Pursuing LEED certification for renovations and installing stormwater retention basins underscores their commitment to sustainability. With plans for fully electric, LEED-certified campuses, Ravenswood remains dedicated to decarbonization efforts.

Read more about this project.

Students smiling and wearing swim gogglesOak Knoll Elementary School

Raising Youth Climate Action Voices at the City Level

Fourth grade teacher Lela Ward got inspired by the Environmental Solutionary Teacher Fellowship program at SMCOE to educate her students on climate change, social justice, and persuasive writing. This year, she guided them in becoming environmental advocates, meeting with Menlo Park City Council member Maria Doerr and writing persuasive letters to advocate for the city’s Climate Action plan. Ward integrates environmental literacy at the start of the year by fostering her students’ connection to nature through nature journaling. Throughout the year, she teaches her students about renewable energy and climate solutions, encouraging solutionary thinking. Towards the end of the year, students engage in a design challenge focusing on city streets and bike safety, with the potential to deliver speeches at city council meetings or community events.

Read more about this project.

Students smiling while constructing a gardenRedwood High School

Whole School Sustainability

Redwood High School offers diverse Career and Technical Education pathways such as Culinary Arts, Industrial Arts, and Multimedia Arts, enriching students' learning experiences. With an environmental rating akin to a silver LEED rating, the campus features solar panels, electric charging stations, and bioswales. Its outdoor educational space includes a creek, native plants, an organic garden, and a chicken coop, fostering hands-on learning amidst nature. Through initiatives like Coastal Cleanup Days, students become stewards of the environment, while the school implements waste reduction strategies like composting and waste sorting, demonstrating its commitment to sustainability.

Read more about this project.

Students plant a gardenWestborough Middle School

What Would We Do Without Our Planeteers?

Teacher Corinna Low leads the Westborough Middle School Planeteers Club, comprising of environmentally conscious 6-8th grade students dedicated to waste reduction. Past initiatives included managing a school share table, monitoring recycling and compost bins during lunch, and organizing youth climate protests. This year, the Planeteers expanded their focus beyond campus, engaging with the South San Francisco mayor to participate in community programs like Adopt a Storm Drain, local cleanups, and assisting the Westborough preschool with their garden. They maintain 20 storm drains, conduct trash cleanups, plant native species, and engage preschoolers with nature. On campus, they conduct weekly waste inventories, sorting misplaced items and providing feedback to teachers. Through Ms. Low's science classes, students learn to be solutionaries, fostering a stronger community connection to address environmental challenges for a brighter, healthier future.

Read more about this project.

Standout Winners