Taking green initiatives into the school

By By Nichole Osinski / American Press

The Lake Charles Charter Academy has taken its first step toward a greener environment for its students. The Green House Effect Project — an agricultural program — begins with a new greenhouse with plans for gardening expansions.

“This is a project to engage children in learning through green activities,” said Ronald J. Blanchard, the school’s parent liaison. “We’re going to have other community-minded people involved. We have a wealth of grandparents, parents to make this a more family-oriented project.”

The project was the brainchild of teachers and parents who wanted to form stronger bonds between families, educators and students.

Parents and guardians are already required to spend at least 20 hours a year committed to some form of school involvement. Educators thought providing a place to grow vegetables and fruits would encourage family as well as community participation. Students will partake in school board meetings to propel the progress of the greenhouse while also getting advice from local farmers and volunteers with agriculture experience.

Justinian Etienne, whose grandson attends the school, said he is looking forward to getting involved with the project and encouraging his grandson in the venture. As a former 4-H member, Etienne has had experience in judging and choosing produce, and is ready to help the students.

“Participation with the family in the school systems is a pretty key element to nurturing the kids along,” he said. “We want to try to have everything that can be consumed; it’s not going to be a wasted space, and we’re going to utilize the products.”

The project has been backed by Entergy, Citgo and Calcasieu District Attorney John DeRosier. Nearly $10,000 has been donated to get it up and running.

Chip Arnould, Entergy customer service manager, said the greenhouse will teach responsibility and help students learn the importance of environmental stewardship.

DeRosier said he was presented with the idea for the greenhouse about five months ago. This project was something he believed the community should be a part of and helped find additional funding to make the project final.

“There were many people who were very willing to cooperate and help,” he said. “Anything that helps children, the general public generally in Calcasieu Parish has been a good community for that.”

Blanchard said the school hopes to extend the environmentally friendly initiative with solar panels in the greenhouse to save energy, as well as start a garden on the premises. The construction of a second greenhouse for the Southwest Louisiana Charter Academy is being planned.

Blanchard expects the greenhouse to be fully furnished with shelves and stocked with fruits and vegetables at the end of the month. He said the students will start off with quick-growing plants such as with tomatoes, carrots and radishes.

“We took a look at the program and thought it was something we would like to fund,” said Missy Amidon, Citgo public affairs coordinator. “Not only is it an educational component, it’s helping the kids, it’s helping the parents and it’s involving the full community in a sustainable-type venture.”