K-12 Schools
Going green in more ways than one

D60 looks to save $14M over 20 years in energy conservation



A partnership between Pueblo City Schools (D60) and a national company aimed at making district buildings more energy efficient is putting the district in the “green,” literally and figuratively.

In August, McKinstry began implementing energy measures that will translate into a $14 million savings over the next 20 years. To date, this partnership has resulted in a lighting rebate to the district in the amount of $665,020 and an HVAC rebate totalling $33,575.

Last week, Lee Smit, a senior program manager with McKinstry, met with student leaders from four STEM magnet schools — Central High School, Roncalli STEM Academy, Bessemer Academy and Highland Park Elementary — to launch the program powerED. This behavior-focused endeavor is meant to increase energy awareness among the studentbodies with an eye toward reducing costs, increasing efficiency and promoting environmentally friendly operations within the schools.

PowerED, Smit said, will complement the actual energy savings measures McKinstry has installed throughout 10 district schools as part of Phase I.

“There’s the physical side — the heating, lighting, the controls,” Smit said. “But this program is about behavior because you can have the best building in the world but if people don’t use it the right way, there’s a lot of energy waste.”

The importance of conserving energy cannot be overstated, Smit said. Next to payroll, the cost of utilities is often a school district’s largest expense.

At Bessemer Academy Thursday, Smit met with a handful of students in grades three-eight — the school’s Power Patrol Team — to brainstorm ways to effectively get the energy conservation message across to the rest of the student body.

“You will learn to control energy in your school,” Smit said. “And that will translate to saving your school as much as $300 a week.”

There’s much more than money at stake, though. Becoming energy conscious, one student noted, will “help the environment and help make our school better.” Furthermore, good energy savings habits learned at school can be used within the home, leading to savings and other benefits for students’ families.

The steps to conserve energy, the students learned, don’t have to be drastic. Simple acts like turning off the lights when leaving a room or putting computers in standby mode or unplugging them when not in use were mentioned.

“Since you can’t get rid of things like computers and lights, the trick is to use them smartly,” Smit said.

Smit encouraged the team to not only engage in an energy savings competition with the other STEM magnet schools “but compete with yourselves based on last year’s energy usage.” Students also will be grading teachers on how well they’re contributing to the program.

Productive behavior among students will, naturally, be rewarded with prizes including pizza and extra recess time.

The student leaders were entrusted with coming up with a marketing plan, complete with slogans a la McDonald’s and Starbucks, to sell the powerED endeavor and make it a success. Posters touting the program already are up in halls, with more avenues to get the message across in the works.

“I absolutely believe the students will take to the program,” said Karlie Zabukovic, a STEM teacher on special assignment at the academy. “They seem pretty excited.

“They’re not really energy efficient yet, but we will get there.”