Canyon Middle School seventh- and eighth-grade students have started composting food scraps from their lunches as part of a districtwide effort that makes it eligible for a rewards program sponsored by the community's sanitary district.

The Castro Valley school's sixth-graders have been composting their food scraps since January and have monitor teams to oversee the effort almost every day.

Most schools in Castro Valley are conducting the waste audits, which are required to be eligible for the Castro Valley Sanitary District's Green Ribbon Schools program.

The program awards $1,500 to $2,700 to schools that complete specific activities to reduce organic waste and increase recycling. Some of the other requirements are that the school have food scrap recycling containers in school kitchens as well as recycling containers in the lunch area, classrooms, offices and work rooms.

"With CVSan's extensive food scrap recycling programs in all Castro Valley Unified elementary schools, sixth-grade students arrived at Canyon Middle School in 2011 wanting to continue the same programs and decided to start up a program," said Jordan Figueiredo of Castro Valley Sanitary District.

"They even created some signs of their own that said, 'COMPOST! Because that's what awesome people do.'"


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The older students joined the effort earlier this month. Figueiredo said it's possible that the food scrap composting could reduce the school's waste by 260 to 520 gallons a day.

New Haven Unified named a national finalist for $28 million grant

The New Haven Unified School District this week was named one of 61 finalists in a national competition for federal grant money, district spokesman Rick LaPlante said.

The multimillion-dollar grant awards are part of the Race to the Top-District competition, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education.

New Haven, which applied for a $28 million grant to aid Union City's schools, was one of just four California school districts to be selected among 372 applicants nationwide, LaPlante said. The districts are vying for a total of nearly $400 million in grant money, which is intended to help schools close achievement gaps, support locally developed learning plans and improve educator effectiveness.

The U.S. Department of Education will select as many as 25 winning applications for four-year grants that will range from $5 million to $40 million, LaPlante said.

The grant awards are expected to be announced no later than Dec. 31.

Toy drive scheduled Saturday in Union City

The New Haven Teachers Association has scheduled a toy drive Saturday in Union City.

The sixth annual Charity Toy Drive and Car Show will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the James Logan High School parking lot at 1800 H St.

The New Haven Teachers Association, the Union City Police Department and Alameda County Fire Department are sponsoring the event. The drive aims to collect toys for the Samaritan House -- a San Mateo nonprofit that provides food, clothing and shelter to families in need -- and the Alameda County Toys for Tots campaign, which collects and distributes toys as Christmas gifts to needy children.

Admission is free, but attendees are asked to bring at least one new, unwrapped toy with a value of $10 or more.

"We are asking everyone to try to donate toys/gifts for teens and for older kids from elementary and middle schools," said Charmaine Banther, New Haven Teachers Association president. "We seem to get a majority of donations for young kids and have very little to give to the older kids."

Homeroom is a weekly roundup of news from schools in greater Hayward and the Tri-City areas.