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Staff photos by REID SILVERMANEvergreen Elementary School Principal Kim Summers, left, St. Mary's public schools Superintendent Michael Martirano and Maryland State Schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick receive the gold-rated LEED certification plaque for the school's environmentally friendly features and construction Tuesday during a dedication ceremony.
Evergreen Elementary School will serve as a prototype not just in St. Mary's County but throughout Maryland because of its conservation features, the state superintendent of schools said Tuesday.
The school opened two months ago but was officially dedicated Tuesday. Evergreen is the first new school built in St. Mary's County since 1981, excluding replacement school buildings such as George Washington Carver Elementary School.
Evergreen could be the greenest school in the state, according to school and state officials.
Just last week, school officials were notified that the school achieved the second highest rating by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, Green Building Rating System, a voluntary national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings.
LEED-certified buildings, such as Evergreen Elementary, are rated according to how well they perform on a checklist that includes sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, and indoor environmental quality.
Evergreen's gold label came thanks to even better handling of the construction waste than planned, extremely good air quality and exemplary water-saving techniques, said Larry Hartwick, school supervisor of design and construction.
The building's design also opens doors to education, as many of the school's green features are being incorporated into the classroom curriculum for students.
Principal Kim Summers said Evergreen is "truly a teaching school," and that educators today must accept their role in instilling the importance of good environmental stewardship in students.
An energy conservation kiosk allows students and visitors to the school to monitor the building's energy usage and other data in real time. This includes comparing two sets of classrooms, one of which is heated traditionally and the other heated using geothermal energy.
"There is a very fresh quality to this school," said David Lever, executive director of the Maryland Interagency Committee on School Construction.
He said the use of natural light, along with the green roof and rainwater-collection cisterns visible from the front of the school, make Evergreen stand out among other green schools in the state.
The school can save 90 percent of the water typically used in an elementary school.
Nancy Grasmick, state school superintendent, praised the school Tuesday as one that will become a prototype for others in the state.
"This school serves as a laboratory … where children will learn what it means in terms of opportunity," Grasmick said. She said the science, technology and engineering features built into the facility are evident and will help encourage students to pursue career paths that allow them to compete on an international level.
"One cannot even go in the restroom and not be aware of the incredible, incredible engineering taking place," Grasmick said, referring to the waterless urinals, dual-flush toilets, high-powered hand dryers and other environmentally friendly aspects.
"It's quite an impressive facility and there are a lot of features that are really state of the art," Grasmick said in an interview after the dedication. She said she believes that at this time it is the greenest school in the state.
Evergreen began in October of 2005 when a school site was finally selected after years of searching, St. Mary's school Superintendent Michael Martirano said.
"This began a whirlwind of excitement, enthusiasm and engagement that led to grand plans," Martirano said. The school system and board of education immediately endorsed making the new facility a green school.
"Our dream has become a reality," thanks to the support of local and state legislators, builders, school staff, parents and others, Martirano said.
Del. John Bohanan (D-St. Mary's) said that the price of a new elementary school has gone up tremendously over the years, but that as a teaching tool, the Evergreen building has come up as a positive example in the state legislature.
"Evergreen, it's the best school ever," Bohanan said.
The school cost about $25.4 million, which included about $1.5 million added and paid for by the county for the green features. It came in under budget by about $1.5 million.
A host of speakers and visitors attended the dedication ceremony, which concluded with a ceremony in which a ceremonial key and an ID badge for mascot Chessie, a Chesapeake Bay retriever, were passed from one person to the next who represented the steps of completing the school.
"We feel like proud parents," said Bill Mattingly, chair of the St. Mary's school board. He urged the students "to take care of this school; it will be here for many generations."
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