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April 13th, 2011 - Kelley Chambers

Making the grade

Two very different metro-area schools move toward eco-friendly environments


For two Oklahoma City schools at opposite ends of the economic spectrum, students are learning in spaces designed to be not only aesthetically pleasing, but also environmentally friendly.

While Casady School in north Oklahoma City educates some of the most economically advantaged students in the city, Educare in south Oklahoma City offers early childhood education programs for children from some of the city’s most economically disadvantaged families.

Casady added a building to its sprawling campus in October that is on track for LEED certification. The entire Educare facility was completed in 2009 to meet LEED standards. Fourteen months after completion, Educare received basic LEED certification; Casady is seeking the silver level.

LEED is a designation from the U.S. Green Building Council that stands for “leadership in energy and environmental design.” It is a third-party certification standard builders can use to rack up points for maximizing natural light, incorporating recycled materials into construction, and reusing waste water, among other things.

Educare, 500 SE Grand Blvd., is the first school in Oklahoma to receive LEED certification.

Oklahoma City Educare, 500 SE Grand Blvd., is the first school in Oklahoma to receive LEED certification, and the first of seven Educare schools around the country to gain that award.

Gary Resetar, project manger for Flintco Inc., is a certified LEED builder and oversaw the construction of Educare. His team tallied points throughout the building process for things like capturing natural light in lieu of additional light bulbs, and working to produce as little waste and leftover materials as possible. Carpets in the school are made of recycled products, such as rubber belts from old vacuum cleaners, and many lights in the building are programed to remain off until after dark.

In addition to a green building, Resetar and the school’s leadership wanted students and patrons to know about the efforts that went into its construction and why they mattered.

“Educare wanted this building to be very hands-on and kid friendly,” Resetar says. “One of the things in our model is to help educate people on what we did here.”

The main entryway is flooded with natural light during the day. A glass wall reveals a playroom with windows that look out onto the playground, which has slides, but rather than ladders, they are built into the sides of small hills. A winding, sloping path is used for tricycle riding. The area includes native grasses, and recycled oil drums are used as colorful, decorative pieces that can be struck with mallets for young, budding percussionists. The building was designed to block harsh north winds to allow children more time outdoors.

At Casady, 9500 N Pennsylvania Ave., the W.R. Johnson Math Building opened in October, and was built to LEED silver standards. After completion of a building, paperwork must be submitted to the USGBC to apply for LEED certification, which often takes at least a year.

In addition to ample natural light, Casady officials prioritized air quality in the building’s ventilation system and use of nontoxic materials and building components. For those seeking LEED certification, any material used indoors — from caulking to paints and varnish — must have low or no volatile organic compounds.

“Our main focus was to make sure that we have made every effort to reduce the indoor air quality problems resulting from the construction process; thereby promoting the comfort and well-being of the faculty and students,” says Casady Headmaster Christopher Bright.

Both facilities were designed to teach and encourage environmental stewardship to students, despite their family’s household income.

Malana Means, early childhood services operations coordinator at Educare, wants her students learning early on to conserve natural resources, recycle and have an appreciation for their community and the environment. Small gardens are attached to several classrooms at Educare to teach children about growing and eating fresh fruits and vegetables.

Already, she has had some parents comment that their children have talked with them about recycling efforts they can do at home, and about eating more fruits and vegetables. For Means, that makes the whole effort worthwhile.

“This is their introduction to the world,” she says. “That’s why we teach them about things like recycling and the gardening aspect.”

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