Evanston residents call for climate action at City-School Liaison Committee meeting

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Jacob Fulton/The Daily Northwestern

Hal Sprague, the president of Citizens’ Greener Evanston. Sprague spoke at the Tuesday meeting of Evanston’s City-School Liaison Committee in favor of more committed climate-conscious actions from the city and school districts.

Jacob Fulton, Reporter

Evanston community members on Tuesday called on the city and school district to make sustainability and climate education an integral part of their agenda in the coming years.

Residents said they saw a need to make climate change a central part of school functions at an Evanston City-School Liaison Committee meeting. The committee is made up of aldermen and school board members, and serves as a way for community members to communicate with the City Council, Evanston/Skokie School District 65 and Evanston Township High School District 202 about topics that affect all three groups.

Members of community groups, such as the Democratic Party of Evanston’s Climate Action Team, Indivisible Evanston, District 65’s Green Team, Citizens’ Greener Evanston and Edible Evanston, were all in attendance at the event.

Many attendees mentioned the importance of climate awareness education in schools. ETHS senior Aldric Martinez-Olson said that in school, he and his classmates have received minimal instruction in relation to the topic.

“Most of our students don’t have a true grasp on how the climate crisis will affect our community,” Martinez-Olsen said. “Low income students and students of color will be affected by climate crises the most, and they generally don’t receive the same education at home, so it’s important to educate them at the one place we come together.”

Though education is essential in raising awareness about the issue, event attendees also called for direct action from the school districts. Sylvia Wooller, the head of District 65’s Green Team, expressed concerns about the fact that climate-related goals aren’t explicitly stated as priorities for D65.

Wooller said that District 65 set out seven top priorities to work on over the next few years, and none were climate-related. She said that something on the subject should have been included.

Climate Action Team committee chair Bob Heuer said it’s important that the city and school districts take steps to work together on sustainability initiatives.

“We need to think about a collective impact approach around climate impact and climate education,” Heuer said.

Both Districts 65 and 202 have recently taken steps to be more environmentally conscious. For example, when ETHS got new turf for its football field, the district decided to use an environmentally-friendly installation method, despite the $50,000 cost increase.

However, community members want to continue to see more long-term plans put in place to increase the school’s sustainability efforts. Hal Sprague, the president of Citizens’ Greener Evanston, said that it’s essential for the school districts and city to create a group focused on climate-related actions.

“We’re going a long way with different groups, talking about putting this material in the curriculum and changing the facilities,” Sprague said. “Things are all being talked about in groups with parents and teachers, so it’s clear that all these people here are happy to help. We just need to make the changes.”

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