School project recycles election campaign signs

By Gary Alan Ruse….

Emily Olson (right) pulls out a sign from the truck dropping them off as Brandi Givens supervises.

Elections come and go but in their aftermath are left the hundreds of signs used during the campaigns.

Most usually end up in a landfill, where the durable message boards will last for ages. But the staff and students of Perrine Elementary have come up with a clever project to “re-purpose” the old signs and turn them into something useful that will spare the environment.

Palmetto Bay’s newly elected Mayor Shelley Stanczyk partnered with the school as 500 or more of her own signs were gathered up for the students to reuse. Signs were collected by students on Tuesday, Nov. 23, starting at 10:30 a.m. in the Perrine Elementary teacher’s parking lot at 8851 SW 168 St. in Palmetto Bay. The school is serving as a central collection point for signs used by Stanczyk and other candidates.

“This is literally a win-win situation,” Mayor Stanczyk said. “These very signs that helped elect a new mayor last week will now be re-purposed by the creative students at Perrine Elementary in a unique recycling project.”

A village sign ordinance requires removal of election signs from lawns and village roadways within seven days of an election (the county requires removal in 30 days).

Stanczyk, the former District 3 councilmember, won the mayor’s seat in the Nov. 16 runoff against candidate Peter England. England reports that his campaign signs also have been in high demand — primarily by a Cutler Bay-based artist who wants to use the sturdy boards for artistic applications.

The plan came about when Brandi Givens, the library/media specialist at Perrine Elementary, contacted Bill Kress, the village’s communications manager, about getting the kids involved in a project to benefit the community. The sign recycling idea was developed and she’s happy with the way it turned out.

“I think it’s a great collaboration that we can work with the village so we can recycle something that is very prevalent in our community — the election signs — and something that would have otherwise gone in the garbage can now go to good use for projects at school,” Givens said. “We’re going to use them for creating weed barriers in our vegetable gardens, and we’re going to use some of the stakes for vegetables to climb up, like our tomatoes. We’re going to use some in our physical education classes for target practice with beanbags.”

Givens said that because the signs are durable and thick enough to use with pushpins, they’re going to try to paint some of them and use them as posters around the school and also as small movable bulletin boards. It all fits in with their environmental approach, too.

“We’re an EDGE school and we’re trying to do everything a little bit greener every year and this is a way we can work with the village to help out our environment a little bit,” Givens said. “We’re also a ‘Dream in Green’ school.”

She said that it’s turning into an experiment in creativity as well as a practical project. The school is going to have a contest in each grade to see which students can come up with the best use for the signs.

“One of the first things that came to mind when I started thinking about the project is reusing them as science boards,” Givens said. “The kids buy a science board every year, so at least 500 of our 800 kids buy one and that’s all cardboard that we’re using, so we’re killing trees in that sense. If we can use these for that purpose that’s less science boards to buy. I came up with five or six ideas and I can’t wait to see what these kids come up with, because I know they’ll come with the most creative stuff — they always do.”

Perrine Elementary students have identified the following re-uses for the Stanczyk election signs: Science project boards and bulletin boards; Art class models and canvasses for art projects; Beanbag targets for Phys Ed classes; Metal stakes will be used in vegetable garden, and for Weed barriers in the gardens.


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