Altara Elementary Parent Spurs District to Become Idle Free
Copperview Elementary students in Midvale kick off Canyons School District Idle-Free Campaign. — Chanci Loran
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Altara Elementary parent Cindy Boyer would gripe about how early parents and caregivers would come to the school at pick-up time only to sit in their cars in a long line with their engines on.
“It made me mad to see the cars running their motors, just sitting there,” Boyer said. “I didn’t want my kids breathing all these pollutants coming out of the cars. It was hard to see the mountains and breathe any fresh air. It’s silly that people aren’t opening their eyes to see what is going on. Either they don’t care, they’re naïve or simply oblivious, because it affects all of us.”
One time while complaining to her husband, she recalled him saying, “You won’t make a difference if all you do is rant about it. Go do something about it.”
So she did.
“I called the superintendent (Jim Briscoe of Canyons School District). He took my call and I talked to him and told him my concerns. He jumped right on board. It amazed me that he took action right away,” she said.
Briscoe noted the importance of the idea.
“Besides educating students, I feel we have some responsibility for their health, and their future health,” he said.
Already, many Canyons schools, and all of its buses, have been idle free for some time, Canyons Energy Specialist Christopher Eppler said.
And while hundreds of Utah schools have implemented idling reduction programs under an initiative spearheaded by the Utah Clean Cities Coalition, Canyons is the first to take it district-wide, the nonprofit’s northern coordinator Tammie Bostick Cooper said.
District spokesman Jeff Haney said Boyer’s concern was taken up with the Canyons Board of Education. The board approved the initiative to reduce idling during morning drop-offs and afternoon pick-ups.
“On Earth Day, Canyons District launched the state’s first district-wide idle-free initiative,” Haney said.
The district announced the initiative at Ridgecrest Elementary in Cottonwood Heights where fifth-grader Kaleb Broderick, who also was concerned about the air, wrote the city, asking to install “no idling” signs near public parks. Cottonwood Heights agreed and also donated an extra sign to Ridgecrest.
The campaign kicked off in the morning at Ridgecrest Elementary School where “no idling” signs were installed and students greeted drivers with placards, window clings to place in vehicles and informational pamphlets explaining the cost-effectiveness, the concern to improve air quality and improve children’s health and the fact Salt Lake County cities have anti-idling ordinances, Haney said.
After unveiling the initiative, students at Mount Jordan Middle as well as Ridgecrest and Copperview Elementary in Midvale were given materials to take home and signs were posted at their schools.
At Copperview, students in the upper elementary grade levels had written argumentative essays about the benefits of reducing idling.
At the school’s assembly, Principal Chanci Loran said students learned about the new initiative.
“Students held signs and chanted ‘turn your key, be idle free,’” she said. “They also recited information about the benefits of being idle free and the hazards of air pollution.”
Haney said the initiative will be evident when school resumes this fall.
“We aim to have all the (idle free) signs at all the schools by the time schools starts in the fall. It’s voluntary, but we hope all those who visit our schools in their vehicles will do their part, no matter how small, to contribute to cleaner air,” Haney said.
The plan also calls for schools to place information on websites, newsletters and other means of communication with parents. “No idling” pledges also will be sent home with students, encouraging parents to voluntarily pledge to “turn their key and be idle free.”
Boyer said she thinks this also will help teachers and safety-patrol students while they are out on duty not to breathe the exhaust.
“I hope it will make a huge difference on inversion and it becomes a habit to stop idling. I hope parents will respect teachers and the school district in this and see it as a benefit for their kids,” she said.
According to the Utah Division of Air Quality, 38 percent of the state’s air pollution comes from cars and trucks — some of it from idling vehicles. Monitoring at schools in other states has shown elevated levels of pollutants during drop-off and pick-up times. And because children breathe about two gallons of air per minute, and their lungs are still developing, they are more susceptible to the harmful effects of pollutants, the division reported.
Boyer said this will help remind those who pick up school children to “just be smart. If you’re going to be there longer than a minute or so, just turn off the engine.”