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Air aware

Meridian Ranch Elementary and Skyview Middle School conducted baseline air sampling in January as part of Engines Off! Colorado. The schools are participating in a study on air pollution that is emitted from idling cars, both before and after school.The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment initiated the Engines Off! Colorado program to reduce exposure to pollution created by idling vehicles. The voluntary program urges parents, teachers, school bus drivers and students to turn off their vehicles if they will be idling for more than 60 seconds.According to The Engines Off! Colorado Web site, ìIdling your engine for just one minute produces as much carbon monoxide as smoking three packs of cigarettes.îSeventh-grade teacher Lindy Bachman is leading the program at Skyview, with students from her environmental education class participating. Bachman holds a master’s degree in environmental science. ìIt’s in my blood to talk to people about environmental issues,î she said. ìIt’s a challenge getting middle schoolers to care, but I’m trying to educate them as future citizens. I want them to understand they have an investment in this as well.îMeridian Ranch’s fifth-grade student council members are participating in the program at their school, under the supervision of Stephanie Kelkenberg, a Meridian Ranch counselor and the student council coordinator.Meridian Ranch did baseline testing Jan. 12. ìWe got our initial data from 3 to 3:40 to see how many cars were sitting idle,î Kelkenberg said. ìI think it went very well. The kids had T-shirts on for Engines Off! They were taking data, handing out pamphlets and getting signatures. The kids were really excited when people would turn off their cars when they walked by.îBachman said students are gathering data such as the number of cars in the parking lot and the period of time they are idling. The data will be sent to the CDPHE. ìThe state is hoping to disseminate some information (from the data) and hopefully give out this information in brochures over the next few months,î Bachman said.Students from both schools will conduct further testing after school in February, March and April to note any changes. ìI think it’ll bring more awareness,î Kelkenberg said. ìI don’t think they (drivers) are aware of how much pollution is going out there. We’re hoping in our district we can get more parents to shut off their engine when they’re waiting. We hope to make a difference in our district.îThrough a clean air grant from the state, District 49 has already implemented other anti-pollution measures by installing catalytic muffler converters and more efficient heaters on its entire fleet of school busses.

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