The California Area School District is charging ahead with its commitment to environmental responsibility and sustainability.
The school district has introduced a fleet of solar-powered scooters to shuttle students between the elementary and high school buildings.
The scooters – essentially solar panels that you can ride – were obtained through a grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Environmental Education Grants Program, which provided funding for 63 projects, including California’s scooter initiative.
With its $20,000 grant, California Area has launched the Success Relies on Sustainable Schools program to promote conservation.
One component of the program is the 20-scooter fleet, which will eliminate the need for a van to shuttle students between the district’s two school buildings each day.
Said California Area School District Superintendent Dr. Laura Jacob, “A lot of our elementary kids go up to the high school for seventh- and eighth-grade math and ELA (English Language Arts), and play practice after school, and a lot of high school kids come down to tutor and for after-school activities. We used to pay a van to transport kids back and forth between buildings, so that’s where the environmental side comes in. We want to showcase to kids that, especially considering the trend of electronic vehicles, you can use alternative modes of transportation that don’t have to be gasoline or diesel.”
The district’s scooters also provide students with an opportunity to experience a mode of transportation used in big cities to make traveling around the city easier and more convenient.
“We wanted to take that Lime approach that you’re seeing in cities like Pittsburgh and Washington, DC,” said Jacob.
All students will have access to the scooters, as long as they pass an online scooter safety class, get parental approval, and agree to follow safety and usage instructions.
“We used to have to either walk or get a ride. (The scooters) are really cool,” said Austin Ott, a sixth-grader who takes ELA classes at the high school building and uses the scooter to cover the half-mile distance between the schools.
The scooter features a solar panel on the front and a solar panel that doubles as a rider’s platform.
The scooters are powered with a lithium-ion battery, and the scooter is designed to travel up to 20 miles per charge.
The scooter’s top speed is 15 miles per hour. Students are required to wear a helmet (they provide their own).
Jacob said the district installed a bike lane, and is encouraging motorists to be aware that students will be driving on the campus road.
“We encourage people to go 15 miles per hour and comply with road signs because student drivers will be on the road. They have helmets on, but they are student drivers. We don’t want people to drive excessively fast, or yield instead of stopping,” said Jacob.
CASD is making other efforts to adopt sustainable practices to help turn students into environmentally responsible citizens.
The sustainability initiative will include a recycling program, and the district will resurface its playground area with recycled materials, Jacob said.
The district is awaiting the arrival of two goats for “goatscaping,” where grazing goats will manage vegetation growth in an environmentally sound manner.
Jacob said the goats will graze on the cross-country course and will also eat poison ivy, which does no harm to them.
Currently, the school district houses an aquaponics program, beehives, and chickens.