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Campbell Elementary School in Metuchen serves as sustainable model; celebrates new larger capacity bike rack

METUCHEN – A $10,000 grant to install a new bike rack and purchase recycling receptacles placed in and around the school has helped Campbell Elementary School in its efforts “to promote energy conservation and make recycling common place.”

The new bike rack replaces the current limited “rusty and dented” bike rack with the capacity for 11 in-ground mounted bikes, according to Schools Assistant Principal Brooke Kirschner.

“Being that the number of students biking to school has increased, as it is often quicker for Metuchen families to bike, or walk, compared to driving across town, we thought it would be advantageous to secure a more modern, visually pleasing, larger capacity bicycle rack in a similar style as ones being installed in downtown Metuchen and outside of local businesses,” she said. “We plan to upcycle our current bicycle rack by painting it and moving it to the lower-class side of the school.”

To celebrate, school officials, students and the school’s Green Team held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the new larger capacity bike rack, which was painted the school color of blue, on April 1.

Principal Vincent Costanza welcomed Schools Superintendent Vincent Caputo; Mayor Jonathan Busch; Council President Jason Delia; Board of Education President Brian Glassberg; Renee Haider, deputy director at Sustainable Jersey and associate director of The Sustainability Institute at The College of New Jersey; Michael Rollins, field representative for the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA); and Christopher Gonda, Safe Routes to School coordinator for Keep Middlesex Moving (KMM).

Campbell Elementary School went through the extensive application process for one of the $10,000 grants from Sustainable Jersey Schools and NJEA in 2019. In February 2021, school officials received word they received the grant.

The title of the application grant was “Campbell Schools Go Green.”

Kirschner said the grant will enable Campbell staff and students to make the school and community greener via the purchase of recycling receptacles and a new bike rack with the ultimate goal of promoting energy conservation and making recycling common place.

The intermediary goals include shedding light on the importance of recycling; drawing attention to waste produced in and from the school; promoting healthy habits; and donating food to those in need.

The purchase of recycling receptacles includes two recycling stations for the cafeteria – waste, recycling, and organic/compost; three recycling stations for outside of the three most frequently used school doors; a compost/organic disposal bin for every classroom and office space; two composters, additional waste/recycling receptacles for classrooms; and tools to help facilitate the collection of recycling and waste materials from custodial staff.

Caputo said he is proud of the collaboration among the school’s Green Team and labor management, along with funding from Sustainable Jersey Schools and NJEA.

“These things don’t happen working alone,” he said.

Busch said a ribbon cutting for a bike rack may rank small on level of importance, but the impact on the community is significant as the borough moves toward becoming a safer place to bike.

Rollins said to date NJEA has provided $1.75 million to schools participating in Sustainable Jersey for Schools grants.

Haider called Campbell Elementary a sustainability model as one of only 43 silver-certified in the Sustainable Jersey for Schools program in the state.

“Their application is very much focused on student and staff health and wellness from physical activity, walking/biking to school to indoor air quality and green cleaning products,” she said.

Kirschner said this is the first Sustainable Jersey grant Campbell Elementary has received.

She said as they move forward the school will promote walking Wednesdays; participate in the 11th annual National Bike and Roll to School Day sponsored by the National Center for Safe Routes to School on May 4 and work with KMM to bring back walking school buses.

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