Climate change council coming to Windham Southeast

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PUTNEY — Kurt Daims of Brattleboro has been pushing for the issue of climate change to be discussed during every Windham Southeast School District meeting.

"That's the way that recognizes the feeling of emergency I think many people in the public have," he told the school board last week, "so that they can be assured that like national security during a wartime, which the climate crisis approaches, it's always on the agenda for them to address."

A nonbinding resolution to include agenda items on climate change at every meeting had been proposed by Daims and approved at the annual school district last month. His motion was amended to also direct the board to make decisions with an eye toward economic, social and racial justice.

Last Wednesday, the Windham Southeast School District Board of Directors approved a motion to establish a policy that would create a climate change council to advise on sustainability issues. The eight-member board — responsible for governing schools in Brattleboro, Dummerston, Guilford and Putney — also will be working with leadership councils made up of people representing different schools and other committees. Daims raised concerns that the subject of climate change might not come up at every meeting. But board Chairwoman Kristina Naylor said the board hears reports from councils and committees at every meeting.

Discussion then briefly turned to a controversial project at Brattleboro Union High School.

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Tim Maciel of Brattleboro questioned the synthetic turf to be installed at Natowich Field, saying that he had concerns about potential injuries to athletes and the cost of the project. He also worried about the environmental impact and the optics.

"Do I really have to argue that grass is better than plastic? Grass absorbs carbon dioxide, produces oxygen," said Maciel, who led efforts to petition the town of Brattleboro to hold a vote which resulted in it becoming the first community in Vermont to ban the use of plastic bags. "What are we teaching our students and others when we replace grass with artificial turf? What kind of values are we representing there? I'm just amazed, I'm stunned that this is even being considered."

Board member Shaun Murphy said the existing field can mostly only be used for football now but the synthetic field would allow for more sports to be played there and lead to "much greater gender equality."

The topic is to come up again at the next meeting at 6 p.m. Aug. 7 at Academy School in Brattleboro.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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