By Kevin Cummings
Chattanooga Times Dalton Bureau
DALTON, Ga. — In the halls and offices of Southeast Whitfield High School, trees are protected from the chainsaw.
No trees actually stand within the school’s interior, but plenty of recycling boxes and cans for paper, plastic and aluminum are scattered through the building. Students deposit the recyclables and special education students pick the materials up and sort them twice a day.
Since the school started its “Raider Recycle” program in 2004 under educators Tom Brown and Rhonda Kelley, the school has saved 813 trees, according to the Dalton Whitfield Regional Solid Waste Management Authority, which partners with Whitfield County schools to encourage recycling.
Last week, in conjunction with America Recycles Day on Wednesday, the Solid Waste Authority honored four local schools for recycling more than 109,000 pounds in 2007-08 school year: Dawnville Elementary and Southeast, Northwest and Dalton high schools.
“This program is very special to me, as I believe that to get the community to recycle, we must first start with the children,” said Bridget Sanford, Solid Waste Authority recycling coordinator.
Special education teachers Lorie Harden and Kevin Kettenring said the 24 students who participate in the collection of the recyclables learn a job skill, too.
“We do it as a job-readiness skill,” Mrs. Harden said. “Most industries recycle and we teach them about sorting and how to properly prepare something to be recycled.”
Mr. Kettenring said he’d like to see more schools in the county participate in an outlined recycling program.
“When you think of all the paper and waste products that come out of 600 or 700 people under one roof, it just makes sense,” he said.