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News from 2023-2024

Posted: April 26, 2024

Polk Middle School Receives National Recognition for Sustainability

The South Valley School has been named a Green Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education.

Polk Middle School Principal Ben Bustos talks about agricultural programs at his school earlier this year.

Polk Middle School Principal Ben Bustos talks about agricultural programs at his school earlier this year.

The U.S. Department of Education announced on Friday that Polk Middle School has been selected as one of its Green Ribbon Schools.

The national award is given to schools for their innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness, and offer effective sustainability education.

Principal Ben Bustos said he and his staff were thrilled when they heard the news.

“We are very excited and humbled by our selection as a national model and steward of our planet,” he said.

Gabriella Durán Blakey, acting superintendent of Albuquerque Public Schools, congratulated the school’s staff and students.

“They have worked hard to weave sustainability into their school’s culture, and those efforts are paying off,” she said. “The work happening at Polk is amazing, and I’m proud of the students and staff. They deserve this recognition.”  

Polk Middle School is a dual-language school located in the South Valley. It champions environmental and agricultural education that honors its students’ culture and heritage through such efforts as a large school farm that provides fresh produce to students and families experiencing food insecurity. The school farm is used for cross-curricular learning projects as well as a meeting space for school and community events.

The school conducts energy audits and has made water conservation a priority. School grounds feature drought-tolerant species. And the school uses its acequia rights to irrigate the grounds.

The state Public Education Department nominated Polk for the award.

“One of Polk’s grow beds is dedicated as Elijah’s Bed, in honor of a staff member’s son who was killed in an act of gun violence,” PED noted in a news release announcing the award. “Elijah’s Bed grows perennial flowers from which students harvest seeds every year and make seed packets to give to other families who have experienced a loss due to gun violence.”

Polk Middle School and three other South Valley schools – Los Padillas Elementary, Mountain View Elementary, and Rio Grande High – will be part of a new Sustaining the Future Magnet beginning in the fall. The Sustaining the Future Program will focus on inquiry-based learning experiences and an environmental STEM curriculum. Students will learn to code and attain certificates from partnering universities in areas including drone flying, agricultural sustainability, clean energy technology, and sustainable farming.

Polk Middle School is one of two New Mexico entities being honored by the U.S. Department of Education. Cuba Independent School District was named a 2024 Green Ribbon School District Sustainability Awardee.

“Congratulations to the students, faculty, and staff of Polk Middle School and Cuba Independent School District,” said New Mexico Public Education Secretary Arsenio Romero. “Your dedication to sustainability not only sets a commendable example for your peers, but also paves the way for a brighter, greener future for generations to come.”

In all, 42 schools, 10 districts, three postsecondary institutions, and one early learning center are being honored with Green Ribbon awards. The awards will be officially presented during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., in July.