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Escalante Middle School students educate community on anti-idling

Durango School District implements new environmentally friendly policies
Lila Van Winkle and Abigail Phelps plant an educational sign about vehicle idling Wednesday at Escalante Middle School. (Tyler Brown/Durango Herald)

Four Escalante Middle School students informed drivers about the dangers of idling engines last week in the school’s parking lot.

Durango School District 9-R is advising parents to turn off their vehicles while waiting to pick up their children through its new sustainability initiatives.

Green Team leader and district spokeswoman Karla Sluis said 9-R wanted to emphasize the state anti-idling laws that are already in place. Colorado State Vehicle Idling Standard says the owner or operator of a covered vehicle shall not cause or permit the vehicle to idle for more than five minutes within any 60-minute period.

According to research on the part of middle school students, idling a vehicle for one minute produces more carbon monoxide than smoking three packs of cigarettes.

The students also shared perspective as to how parents turning off their car can save money by not wasting fuel.

Escalante seventh grader Lila Van Winkle said money that would have been wasted on fuel could possibly be spent on eating healthier foods.

“Maybe you can invest in having cleaner water (or) have a better life by eating healthier,” Van Winkle said.

Seventh grader Abigail Phelps said idling vehicles can also impact students with asthma. She said the pollution in exhaust can aggravate asthma and allergies, as well as cardiovascular and respiratory disease.

“I learned kids have a faster rate of breathing. And so by 50%, their respiration is faster than an adult. And so if they're breathing faster, their lungs are more affected by pollution,” Sluis said.

The students say the goal is to get people in the habit of making small changes that will help the environment.

“If we can influence people, not everybody but a majority of the people to turn off their car, I think that it can really improve the air quality,” Van Winkle said.

The Escalante Green Team will also be informing the community about anti-idling via radio public service announcements in upcoming weeks.

“We wrote a script, and they practiced reading it and are learning how to have a radio voice,” Sluis said.

Last week, the district implemented new sustainability policies for bus drivers. Bus drivers will now shut off engines upon reaching their destination, and buses will not idle for more than five minutes while waiting for passengers.

Exceptions will be made in instances of cold weather to allow the vehicle to heat up, but in this case, the bus can idle for only 15 minutes.

School buses should not be restarted until they are ready to depart and there is a clear path to exit the pickup area, according to the new policy.

Sluis said district bus drivers will receive anti-idling training and it is likely they will have some sort of messaging inside buses to remind them to shut off their vehicles.

The school district is also implementing policies regarding which cleaning solutions schools will use. As of right now, the policy is only going into effect at Miller Middle School and the Impact Career Innovation Center because those will be the newest buildings in the district.

The regulations say that 75% of cleaning products used will be environmentally preferable and safer, certified by Green Seal or EcoLogo programs. If no third-party certification is available for products, the product must have the EPA’s Safer Choice label.

Also, teachers and other staff will be prohibited from using aerosol and plug-in air fresheners.

Custodial staff members will use only Carpet & Rug Institute certified vacuums or other high-efficiency particulate air vacuums. Also, teachers and other staff are prohibited from bringing in their own cleaning supplies to ensure the requirements of the plan are being met by all cleaning supplies used on-site.


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