Meet the greenest high school in Sacramento

Downtown’s The Met gets makeover, targets LEED, CHPS certifications

The Met principal Allen Young (second from left) and students serenade the halls. Notice the wood-paneled ceiling: They’re reclaimed bleacher seats from Sacramento High School, part of the Met’s green remodel.

The Met principal Allen Young (second from left) and students serenade the halls. Notice the wood-paneled ceiling: They’re reclaimed bleacher seats from Sacramento High School, part of the Met’s green remodel.

No bells ever sound at The Met. The nearly 300 students at this small high school on the south side of downtown apparently just know when to go to class.

Which is cool, and important to note, because it speaks to how life at The Met—part of a nationwide Big Picture Schools family that offers unique academic choices such as local-business internships and mentor programs—is quite unlike the typical high-school experience.

And now, The Met’s uniqueness extends to the environment: A recently completed, $7 million remodel has made it the greenest high school in the city of Sacramento.

“This is almost like a dream, I’m not kidding you,” said Elias De La Cruz, the Met’s longest-tenured adviser—they’re not called teachers—one afternoon while admiring the remodel. He’s been with The Met since its inception, when the school was so ramshackle, he once mounted egg-crate cartons on the walls to minimize outside noise in his classroom (until the fire marshal told him to take it down).

As of this month, Metsters and their advisers show up for class at what will soon be the district’s first and only silver-level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, and Collaborative for High Performance Schools certified campus.

“Now, it’s like a college,” says Met principal Allen Young. The original Leland Stanford building from 1947 was preserved during the remodel—but with a few modern and green-friendly twists.

A short bells-and-whistles roundup: Dyson hand dryers in the bathrooms (no paper towels); two-ply, gas-compression windows that optimize natural lighting and Solatube ceiling lights; recycled-content carpet, furniture and countertops; energy-saving and sound-proofed mechanical units such as air conditioning; wall-mounted digital projectors (Young describes them as “an iPad meets an overheard projector”); linseed-based floor tiles; green cleaning products; and reused glass and recycled materials everywhere.

Even when entering the new Met, reclaimed wood from the bleachers at Sacramento High School decorate the ceiling, offering both a cool aesthetic and also inexpensive and eco-friendly acoustics. “[Mayor Kevin Johnson has] been sitting on those,” Young pointed out. “And so have my wife and I.”

The green remodel, a project two years in the making, broke ground in July 2011. The entire Met student body moved out temporarily to Sac High while asbestos and lead were removed from the nearly 70-year-old building. Most of the construction was paid for with a $3 million bond, in addition to district and CHPS funding.

Paul Breckenridge, the Sacramento City Unified School District project manager that oversaw the remodel, is confident that—as revealed by studies—the new Met environs will continue to improve academic performance. For instance, “There aren’t the traditional blue little chairs that you can’t stand sitting in for more than a few minutes,” he noted; kids will pay more attention. They’ll enjoy going to class.

“Plus, there’s absolutely zero grass on this campus,” Breckenridge added, “and everything is optimized for low water usage.”

Still, it’s not an extravagant redo. And the students, while in awe, seem humbled as well.

Third-year student Metster Alex Jones called the new campus “refreshing.”

“It’s cool we’re saving the environment,” he added.

Classmate Ruby Avila showed a bit more excitement. “We’re going to be growing our own vegetables in the garden,” she said of The Met’s farm-to-table raised plots in the quad.

This is not to mention a new auditorium, cafeteria and culinary-arts center, school logo and very cool private-study rooms that connect each larger classroom.

Junior Courtney Harmering pretty much summed up how it feels to get a new school: “This whole campus, it’s awesome.”