School makes climate change commitment   

BAR HARBOR — By a unanimous vote on Monday, the Mount Desert Island High School board made a formal commitment to combatting climate change and its impacts. 

The commitment, proposed by the school’s student Eco Team, lays out actions to be taken in education, carbon emissions and social justice.  

The students called for adding a focus on climate change to required classes so that all students will have a good understanding of climate science 

As for carbon emissions, Eco Team member Mason Soares told the school board last month, “We aim to reduce (the high school’s) emissions and waste production by increasing our efficiency and use of climate-friendly alternatives. A goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2030 and carbon negative by 2050 should be kept in mind during future decisions.” 

The social justice component of the commitment should include “an active effort to have a variety of people with different viewpoints in the discussion” of combatting climate change, Soares said. 

Ruth Poland, a science teacher who works with the student Eco Team, told the school board on Monday that she thinks the education component of the climate change commitment will be easy for the high school to keep. 

“Many courses have taught it already, but it is one of those things that often gets dropped off when you run out of time,” she said. “So, I think the educational commitment is really to recenter and refocus it with the clear intention that it is going to be in at least one required class by the time students graduate.” 

Principal Matt Haney said, “The simplest place to start is to ensure it’s in the freshman biology class that 99 percent of the students take. But then it needs to be spread out across the entire curriculum. 

Several high school board members asked questions or made comments about the proposed climate change commitments, particularly the commitment to teach climate change in required classes. 

“This is not my perspective, but there are people among us who don’t believe climate change and climate education is something they should be spending their time on,” said board member Lilea Simis. 

Haney said that, from an educational perspective, “This is not something we see as a controversial topic. It is clearly based on science. Climate change is real.  

People have the ability to disagree with anything we teach, but we’re not going to shy away from teaching this because of that particular perspective. It’s because of that perspective that it is so important we have a comprehensive way to address it.” 

Board member Kristi Losquadro said she, too, supports the climate change commitment. 

“But I think there are going to be a lot of people in our community who say, ‘How is this related to preparing our kids for college and career readiness?’ We need to be able to answer that.” 

Haney said the answer is: “When you talk about college and career readiness, this is an exploding field with lots of careers and money to be made. It’s an economic lesson; it’s a civics lesson. It really is the wave of the future, hopefully for good and, if we ignore it, for bad. 

Julie Keblinsky, the high school’s dean of curriculum, added that the school follows the Next Generation Science Standards for course content that Maine and many other states have adopted. 

“Climate literacy is a strong component of that,” she said. 

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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