An overflow crowd, compete with costumed kids carrying signs, presented a case to the Ellensburg School Board Thursday night to discontinue use of polystyrene lunch trays.

A progress report was made at a meeting in the Ellensburg High School Little Theater regarding the potential removal of polystyrene lunch trays from district’s lunchrooms. The Polystyrene Alternative Citizens Committee was created by the board in November and presented its findings a month ahead of schedule.

The committee advised the School Board extend the deadline for its final recommendation to June 10, 2020. It also advised the School Board grant authorization for the committee to raise funds for reusable/washable trays to be implemented in Lincoln Elementary this spring.

“Running such a program, at no additional cost to ESD, provides all stakeholders an opportunity to experience success, and provides a viable proof of concept as funds are secured to implement washable trays in the other schools,” the committee stated in its report.

The committee stated the city of Ellensburg has already committed $3,200 toward the implementation of new lunch trays at Lincoln Elementary School. Lincoln Principal JoAnne Duncan could not attend the meeting but indicated she is in full support of the request.

Polystyrene lunch trays are being used at every school in the Ellensburg School District. Advocates for their removal presented information that these trays are harmful to students and the environment. In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) reclassified polystyrene as a probable carcinogen. According to research provided in the presentation, there is a strong possibility the students will ingest polystyrene when served hot food on the trays. Adding to the issue, polystyrene takes an estimated 500,000 to 1 million years to break down in nature, making it a common pollutant.

The community came out in force to show its support for a polystyrene alternative. Many brought signs and waved polystyrene trays during the meeting. Some students even wore costumes made of polystyrene trays.

One of the requirements of the committee is to recommend a solution at the same cost or less than that of the polystyrene trays. The committee is currently working to satisfy that requirement. Committee Chair Susan Kaspari said the committee is requesting an extension in order to consider other alternatives to polystyrene trays and to secure more funding.

Students from Ellensburg High School and Morgan Middle School have started petitions to change out polystyrene trays. Over 400 signatures have been collected for them.

“At this point, you have given us a lot to think about, you have given us a great report, and now we are going to have to do our due-diligence and we are going to put this on another agenda and do a meeting,” School Board president Tosha Woods said. “We can work with district staff and get clarification before we can do anything and provide parameters.”

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