A group of Indianola High School students has a special request for the upcoming renovation of their building, even though they’ll graduate before it’s complete.
Members of the IHS Environmental Awareness Club filled the audience of Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Indianola School Board. Carlyn Bruck, a junior, took the mic as their representative during the portion of the meeting open to public comment.
“Today we want to ask you for your support,” she said. “If your city votes to construct a new high school building (addition), we ask that you do your all to make sure this building will implement policies that will reduce our school’s impact on the climate.”
Bruck said that their club has spent the past four years “helping care for our local environment,” from holding fundraisers for national nonprofits like the Sierra Club to making masks from recycled materials during the peak of the pandemic.
As Bruck addressed the school board, voting was still under way to determine the fate of the $70 million bond issue needed to fund the renovation known as “Replace in Place.” The measure ultimately passed with an 85-percent majority.
But even with that outcome unknown at the time, it was important to the students to make their hopes for the building known at Tuesday's board meeting, said Bruck.
“We understand that, at ground zero, systems like solar panels look very daunting, but these systems are necessary to help protect our environment and, more often than not, they end up being cheaper in the long run,” she said.
The Environmental Awareness Club asked the school board to consider incorporating solar energy in the renovated building along with recycling and composting systems. Meanwhile, in lieu of turf, portions of the landscaping could be used for growing prairie grasses and flowers.
Not only would the more natural ecosystem better the planet, “we would save money on water bills, mowing equipment and labor as well,” Bruck pointed out, referring to the costs associated with traditional lawn maintenance.
The renovation, known as Replace in Place, is expected to take five to six years to complete, so current members of IHS’s Environmental Awareness Club will have graduated before it’s complete. If “green” features are incorporated at their request, they won’t be there to admire the impact they had.
But then, they already know that, said Bruck, and have a different, bigger-picture view.
“But most importantly, all of these options would help protect our local environment. I and the rest of the club understand that we will not be present if and when the new school (renovation) is built,” Bruck said before the vote outcome was known. “But all of us understand the importance of leading future generations with a planet to live on.”
“That’s why we ask that you hear our voice now and that you keep them in your minds as the results come in," Bruck continued, "all the way until the new building (renovation) is under way.”
After the meeting, Ted Ihns, superintendent of the Indianola Community School District, said there hadn’t been discussion so far of incorporating environmentally friendly features in the design of the renovation.
As per board policy, board members didn’t comment on Bruck’s presentation, although several thanked her, with board president Rob Keller noting, “You did well.”