When Deerfield’s was given an education project by the Village Board, it literally went to school.
After taking a closer look at how to reduce the amount of vehicular idling in town, Mayor Harriet Rosenthal and the trustees felt teaching the public rather than legislating was the best way to go in the beginning, according to Jenny Maltas, an assistant to Village Manager Kent Street.
During a Village Board meeting in November, potential ordinances were discussed and the largest complaint among the trustees was the idling of school buses. Street reached out to the schools and a project for the Sustainability Commission was born.
“We didn’t want to do more than the state law required,” Maltas said regarding requirements on school buses. “We decided to reach out and do voluntary education.”
Education is what the commission did when it reached out to and to let those communities know the effect of car idling while people are waiting for students to come out of class and get in the car.
After Trustees Mary Oppenheim, Robert Benton and William Seiden voiced concerns about the busses used by District 109 idling much of the day, Street contacted the schools. Assistant Superintendent Greg Himebaugh went directly to Olson Bus Company, the service provider.
Though there is no requirement in the contract between District 109 and Olson, company spokesperson Ron March indicated his business makes an effort to reduce idling.
“We tell our drivers to shut down the buses when they arrive to school in the afternoon and only start them at 3p.m.,” March said. “That way they are only on for six to eight minutes. When it is hot out, they will wait even longer to start.”
In addition to dealing with the bus company, one of the things done is placing signs at the high school as well as the Village’s elementary and middle schools suggesting people turn off their engine while waiting.
“It’s a useful sort of way to capture people’s attention when they notice it and can act,” Sustainability Commission Chairman Matt Wyle said. “It makes people aware of the positive effect it will have on students in the area.”
According to Clean Air Counts, a group combating the effects of idling engines, an idling vehicle emits 20 times more pollution than one traveling 32 miles per hour. People take in 20,000 breaths each day and children breathe 50 percent more air per pound than adults.
When the Commission reached out, it found willing partners at the schools. “Students at all of the District 109 schools jumped at the opportunity to create awareness of the harm that idling cars can cause and to make a real impact on improving the air in our community," District 109 Communications Director Catherine Kedjidian said.
This is the Commission’s first major education project since it was formed approximately two years ago. Wylie, the chairman since its inception, is thrilled with the opportunity to work within the community to make a difference.
“This is a great opportunity to share our core message,” Wylie said. “It’s thrilling for us as a commission to educate the residents about all the aspects of this and working on an issue to benefit the community.