Activists press Board of Education on climate resolution progress
Student advocates from the New Haven Climate Movement urged the Board of Education to follow through on a 2022 climate emergency resolution on the anniversary of its passing.
Ariela Lopez, Contributing Photographer
A year after the New Haven Board of Education passed a climate emergency resolution, advocates expressed frustration over its implementation in a meeting Tuesday evening.
Rosie Hampson and Young In Kim ’27 both spoke via Zoom during the public comments section of the Board of Education’s biweekly meeting on Tuesday, which was held at Barack H. Obama Magnet School and broadcast on the Board’s YouTube channel. Hampson is a senior at Wilbur Cross High School and Kim is a Wilbur Cross alum. Both students are involved in the New Haven Climate Movement’s Climate Education team, which drafted the Climate Emergency Resolution that passed in 2022.
“Being a New Haven public school student all my life, I believe that there is a responsibility within the school system to be a leader in sustainable climate solutions,” Kim said to the News. “We’re waiting for the Board to take action and it’s been a slow process.”
Hampson and Kim urged the board to allocate $300,000 in funds toward hiring three new staff members specifically to help implement the Climate Emergency Resolution. Hampson recommended the Board hire an energy coordinator, climate education coordinator and sustainability coordinator to help with implementing and overseeing climate-focused programs in schools.
The Board unanimously passed the Climate Emergency Resolution on Sept. 27, 2022. Eleven individuals made public comments encouraging the Board to maintain its commitment to the resolution at the 2022 meeting, including Kim. The resolution has eight points, which range from making transportation and school facilities more energy efficient to implementing climate education curricula in classrooms.
“In the year since the resolution was passed, the world has continued to be devastated by heat waves, wildfires and cyclones,“ Hampson testified on Tuesday. “All these disasters are only going to worsen if we do not act.”
Since adopting the resolution, New Haven Public Schools has partnered with Energy and Sustainability Manager Michelle Martinelli of facility management provider ABM Industries on projects relating to climate action. Martinelli manages the district’s Energy Star — a joint program run by the U.S. Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency — account. She has also worked on the district’s efforts to update its facilities and implement a recycling and composting program, according to Thomas Lamb, chief operating officer of New Haven Public Schools.
Speaking with the News, Martinelli touted the progress made by the district.
“There is a lot to this job,” she said. “But I think we’ve made big strides in the last year.”
Lamb said that the district had engaged in substantial climate mitigation efforts in the wake of the resolution. He pointed to facilities updates, such as the installation of solar panels in 19 school buildings and LED-powered lighting in around 25 buildings. Lamb said he believes the district has made a lot of progress, although he emphasized the difficulty of implementing policies that apply universally across a system of 42 school buildings.
Lamb told the News that getting the resources needed for these changes was more than a matter of reallocating limited funds.
“We live in an environment where I don’t have enough capital to maintain our buildings as it is,” he said. “How can I make changes that have an impact on energy and sustainability without ingraining it into my process?”
Since the Board of Education passed the 2022 resolution, New Haven Public Schools students have taken the initiative to work on their own climate projects, Kim said. Last spring, Wilbur Cross High School students helped start a pilot composting project with local composting company Peels & Wheels Composting.
Martinelli said that the district has also started a pilot composting project with Blue Earth Composting and is planning to establish a district-wide composting program with partner organizations Haven’s Harvest and Trifecta Ecosystems.
In their public comments, both Hampson and Kim referenced the devastating effects of international climate disasters. Kim also emphasized the importance of climate mitigation efforts in the district. Last year, he said, the hallways at Wilbur Cross High School flooded during a rainstorm. Kim also pointed to this year’s extreme heat, which forced the entire school system to dismiss students two hours early Sept. 7.
Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting was postponed from its usual Monday time in observance of Yom Kippur.
Correction, Sept. 29: A previous version of this article included incorrect information about the passage of the Climate Emergency Resolution last year. The fifth paragraph has since been amended.