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September 22 • 01:00 PM
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Imlay district talks energy


Collaborative set up to evaluate usage and find ways to conserve



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May 27, 2009
IMLAY CITY — Everything at Imlay City Schools that cools and copies or lights and types is getting an extra look these days from a panel of administrators, teachers, employees and students.

The collaborative group is helping the district evaluate their energy usage with Energy Essentials, a management consulting program, offered through the Michigan School Business Officials organization.

Earlier this month, the group shared their observations and ideas for cutting usage and encouraging all-around 'green' practices in the school district with consultant Rob De Boer.

Everyone acknowledged that a lot could be accomplished by hitting the off button more often and cutting 'phantom' power—that is, the electricity an appliance draws from an outlet even when not in use.

"It's doing things like unplugging a refrigerator in the staff lounge over the summer," High School teacher Jeff Gartrell said.

Fellow teachers in the group also noted a significant number of personal appliances in their peers' classrooms, such as small refrigerators and microwaves. De Boer pointed out that school buildings often aren't designed to handle the extra electrical load these appliances require.

Information Technology Director Trevor Kaeding took a hard look at the district's power management of computers alone and suggested a unified shutdown system be implemented. Such a system would ensure that all computers were turned off by a certain hour each night and could save the district close to $10,000 a year in electricity, Kaeding said.

Brian Badder of the maintenance department said significant savings have already been recognized under several projects, including lowering classroom temperatures by two degrees.

Badder and Deby Smith, transportation and grounds director, said there is an endless list of projects that promise energy savings—replace inefficient lighting, schedule security lighting, install more digital thermostats and occupancy sensors.

De Boer suggested it's likely time to look at the school's policy for building use by outside groups.

High school students Sean Lemons and Dyllan Walker had specific ideas for ways to go green at their school like taking advantage of natural light when possible, consider replacing the inefficient hand dryers in the bathroom and limit paper use for printing and copying.

Walker said he's made it a personal goal to help the high school improve their Energy Star rating to 40 from their current standing at 17.

Administrators and teachers in the group envisioned numerous classroom projects to help students understand the importance of conservation.

Gartrell said it would be a great time to start a student-led recycling program. Middle School Principal Erik Mason hopes to see his students create public service announcements with an environmentally-friendly message. Borland teacher Kathleen Brady said the elementary school could easily expand on the curriculum already being taught there including natural resources, and electricity. Weston teacher Jill Gardner hopes to expand the school's Explore and More program to include energy awareness and suggested creating a garden club for kids. Middle School teacher Julianne Kent suggested students be able to track the energy savings the district will realize with Energy Essentials, such as how many pounds of recycled material were saved from landfills.

Sandy Combs, food service director, said plans are already underway to consolidate some frozen food stock this summer and turn off some of the large, walk-in freezers. They'll also be using fewer lights on food bars and delay starting up their dishwashers each day.

Armed with their ideas and a plan, participants in the Energy Essentials group are excited to get started.

"I'd like to thank the school board for supporting the Energy Essentials program," Smith said.

"It's going to be a lot easier to control some of these costs if the whole district sees where we are coming from."

At their next meeting in June, the panel and De Boer will develop a 'top ten' list and make plans for implementing them come fall. De Boer said the consultation should be complete by the end of 2009.

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