2011-12-20 "American Canyon High School lauded by Huffington Post for being green" by Rachel Raskin-Zrihen from "Vallejo Times-Herald"
AMERICAN CANYON -- This city's first and only high school was recognized in a national publication as the nation's "greenest" -- an achievement the writer seemed to think all the more remarkable for its history and proximity to Vallejo.
Former Sierra Club Chairman Carl Pope's story in the Huffington Post on Friday notes that -- despite American Canyon's being "a far cry from the high-priced vineyards and estates to the north" -- its 3-year-old high school last month was the nation's first to be certified as a "green school" by the Collaborative for High Performance Schools.
The article describes the city as bordering "blue-collar Vallejo" and for years, the "low-income community" where facilities and problems "the rest of Napa County didn't want to deal with" were dumped.
Since its 1992 incorporation, however, American Canyon has "developed a remarkable culture of civic engagement and participation," of which the high school is one expression, Pope said Monday.
"I wasn't trying to make a comment on Vallejo, but (American Canyon) is not part of the (upscale) Napa Wine Country, and I think most people would have assumed the country's first green high school would be someplace like Mill Valley or Calistoga," he said. "Poor people don't typically get the best stuff, and this time they did, and that's what's exciting about it."
Before the high school was built, American Canyon students were bused to up-county schools. A bond measure was passed to build the school, and make it "a 22nd century investment," outgoing City Manager Rich Ramirez said.
While Pope writes that he hopes in five years American Canyon High will be just one of hundreds of ecologically friendly American schools, city officials are proud to be first.
"It's kind of cool," Ramirez said of the Huffington Post article. "It was a conscious decision by the school board to make an investment to save money in the long run."
The "clever" energy-saving efficiencies incorporated into the school's design are a source of pride for city leaders.
"There have been some minor bugs to work out, like some communications issues that have been resolved, but, that said, the design used every imaginable energy efficiency," Ramirez said.
Mayor Leon Garcia, too, said "the community is quite proud of that," noting "an awful lot of planning went into that."
Though John Stong of Quattrocchi Kwok Architects, the Santa Rosa-based firm that designed the school, had not heard it was named the nation's greenest, he said he wasn't surprised.
"We were asked to design a very sustainable school and we took that to heart," he said. "We are very proud it's been so well accepted by the community."
Most of the sustainable features could be incorporated into any building nearly anywhere, he said.
"For example, the use of (solar panels) is available anywhere the sun shines, as are ground source geo-thermal heating systems that take advantage of the constant temperature deep below ground for energy efficient heating and cooling," Stong said.
Pope attributes the American Canyon High School success in part to the community "pulling itself together in very interesting ways."
"I think it's remarkable that they have now got this achievement that's recognized as a wonderful thing nationally," he said. "I'm blown away and thrilled. I've driven past that location frequently and never knew there was something wonderful two blocks away."