Bishop Addresses Students at Green Rally

Erin McKinley
The Southampton Press

The Hampton Bays Middle School was a sea of green on Friday morning as students, staff and local lawmakers came together to celebrate the school’s recent designation as a federal “Green Ribbon” building and to pledge to take their efforts even further with solar panels and wind energy.

At a pep rally held in the Ponquogue Avenue gymnasium on Friday, students—decked out in green—listened as Hampton Bays Schools Superintendent Lars Clemensen announced the administration’s intentions to place both solar panels and a wind farm on the roof of the middle school by 2013. He said it will cost approximately $10,000 to achieve both these goals, and the school has already begun planning fundraising efforts involving the community to make the proposal a reality.

“To continue reducing damage to the planet, by 2013, Hampton Bays Middle School will run its computers, copiers and all machines on solar and wind energy on the roof,” Mr. Clemensen said at the rally. “We are going to change the way we use energy here in Hampton Bays.”

Currently, the district is hoping to have between 20 and 25 solar panels installed on the middle school roof that will generate an estimated 5,000 watts of energy per year, along with a single wind turbine that could produce between 1,000 and 2,000 watts of energy per year, according to Business Administrator Larry Luce. The turbine will stand about 10 feet tall, 6 feet in diameter and feature a “wind sock” on its rear; the device will be visible from the street though Mr. Luce said the system will not be obtrusive.

Eventually, the district hopes to increase both the number of solar panels and wind turbines on the middle school roof.

Throughout Friday’s celebration, which lasted approximately 90 minutes and was attended by the entire middle school plus the fourth-graders from the nearby elementary school, several politicians praised the students and administrators on their efforts in creating a green learning environment.

“The very best way to teach how important something is to actually live it,” U.S. Representative Tim Bishop of Southampton said to students during the rally. “I am confident that as you leave here and go on in the rest of your lives, you are going to know each and every day how important it is to protect our environment.”

Roger Smith of Burton Behrendt & Smith Architects of Patchogue, the firm that designed the middle school, also spoke to students on Friday. He stated that it is one thing to design and construct a “green” building, but a completely different thing to make it “come alive”—something he credits the fifth-, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders with achieving.

“You have made this building come alive and that is very special,” Mr. Smith said. “Thank you for being the shepherds and stewards of this building.”

Three local lawmakers—State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman and Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst—all presented middle school administrators with proclamations honoring their district’s efforts.

“There are thousands of schools in this country,” Ms. Throne-Holst said. “But there are a very few that are on the radar of the first lady and the president of the United States.”

The Green Ribbon designation was awarded last month by the U.S. Department of Education to 78 schools in 29 states, and Hampton Bays Middle School was one of only three schools in New York State to earn the honor. The recognized schools have limited their impact on the environment during construction and, once open, offer classes that promote good health and environmental educational concepts, with a focus on sustainability.

After sharing his future plans for the middle school, Mr. Clemensen said he is excited to see how these new energy tools can be incorporated into the district’s curriculum. He noted that both middle and high school students will be able to monitor in the classroom how much energy is being conserved through the use of the green technologies.

In order to support the district’s continued efforts, the Hampton Bays Civic Association, Chamber of Commerce, Rotary and Lions clubs, and the district’s Education Foundation all made donations toward the solar and wind farm last week. In total, they donated $1,000 toward the initiative.

“The Green Ribbon for Hampton Bays Middle School is the beginning, not the end,” Mr. Clemensen said at the rally. “It is a recognition that we have to do more because we know more.”