Bend-La Pine’s school board affirmed its dedication to reducing emissions and promoting sustainability by unanimously passing a climate-change resolution at its meeting earlier this week.

The resolution — only the second of its kind to be signed by an Oregon school board ­— was first promoted last month by a group of local high school students who pushed for its adoption.

Board member Peggy Kinkade said before the meeting that students’ passion about fighting climate change is what helped spur the board to consider the resolution.

“It’s one of those issues that has a significant effect on today’s children,” she said before Tuesday’s meeting. “They’re growing up in this world and trying to arrest this warming climate.”

bend.k12.or.us/application/files/5215/6114/5978/6.25.19packet.pdf">The" class="auto" target="_blank">class="auto">bend.k12.or.us/application/files/5215/6114/5978/6.25.19packet.pdf">The resolution says “climate change is neither a partisan nor a political issue,” and that greenhouse gases and rising temperatures will affect the future lives of students. The resolution says the school district “can be part of the climate change solution” by lowering emissions, and that board members will try to promote conservation, waste reduction and sustainability. There are no concrete or immediate changes listed in the resolution.

According to Schools For Climate Action, a northern California-based group that helps school boards and other educational groups advocate for green policies, Portland Public Schools is the only other school district in Oregon to pass a similar resolution. A majority of school boards that have passed climate resolutions are in California, according to the group, but school districts in Colorado, Virginia, Ohio, Nevada, New York and Washington — including Seattle Public Schools — have joined the bandwagon.

The Bend Education Association teacher’s union signed a climate action resolution in March, making it one of three teacher’s unions in the country to have done so, according to Schools for Climate Action. The other two are in California.

In a May meeting, a group of high school students from Bend and Realms high schools begged the board to pass a draft resolution they provided.

“I don’t want to tell my children in the future that I could’ve done more, or that everyone knew what was happening, but no one decided to step up and address it,” said Bend High senior Bridger Freeman. “I won’t stand by and watch this happen, and I hope you won’t either.”

“I’ve had people tell me that the topic is way too depressing to be taught in schools,” added Realms sophomore Maya Ritzer. “And yet, somehow it’s not too depressing to keep living in this reality.”

Jackie Wilson, an employee of Bend environmental nonprofit The Environmental Center who’s worked with Bend-La Pine Schools for the past four years, said she believes the resolution will not only help encourage the school district to continue its green efforts, but influence other public groups to do the same.

“It will help us be leaders in the state of Oregon,” she said. “We’ll show other districts in the state and country that this is really important, and we can do it better.”

Both Wilson and Kinkade said the resolution will help bolster and reinforce Bend-La Pine’s bend.k12.or.us/application/files/8914/5288/1196/EDDA-AR.pdf">10-year-old" class="auto" target="_blank">class="auto">bend.k12.or.us/application/files/8914/5288/1196/EDDA-AR.pdf">10-year-old sustainability policy. The policy calls upon the school district to promote environmental responsibility in its education, and to apply sustainability practices districtwide.

Bend-La Pine Schools says it has already put in effort towards sustainability. As of 2018, nearly half of the district’s school buses use propane fuel, which emits less carbon than traditional gasoline and diesel, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The school district has also upgraded multiple schools to LED lighting, which reduces energy use, and new buildings are built to conserve energy. For example, William E. Miller Elementary, built in 2015, is LEED-certified, which means the U.S. Green Building Council stated the building saves energy and water.

At Tuesday’s board meeting, Maya and fellow Realms sophomore Scout Gesuale brought student-made zines — homemade, low-budget magazines, in this case, created for a Realms school project — for the school board members. They thanked the school board for considering the resolution.

“In creating this resolution at our request, you have amplified our voices and demonstrated the power of change the students truly hold in our district,” Maya said.

However, Scout warned the school board that the Portland school board’s climate change resolution, passed in 2016, didn’t see any concrete results until very recently, and said she hoped Bend-La Pine would take action quickly. She added that the district’s students were “willing to do what is necessary” to combat climate change in the school district.

All five present school board members — Julie Craig had to leave the meeting early — voiced support for the resolution. Board member Stuart Young called the pledge a “no-brainer,” adding that he’s marched multiple times in support of fighting climate change. He said he agrees with the visiting students that actions need to be taken quickly.

“I’m not very excited about resolutions — I’m very interested in, what do we do?” Young said. “It’s going to be tough, because we’ve got a lot to do.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7854, jhogan@bendbulletin.com

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