Reader Panel

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Become a member of American School Board Journal's Reader Panel, a self-selected sample of ASBJ subscribers.

As part of the ASBJ Reader Panel, you'll have a chance to add your voice to ours in print and online. Every month—and occasionally more frequently—we'll send panel members a link to a brief poll on a topic of interest. We'll report the results—including selected comments—in the Your Turn column of American School Board Journal.

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Going Green

When asked "What is your district doing to make your schools 'greener'?", 90.9 percent of responding Reader Panel members said "yes," while 9.1 percent answered "no."


Here is a sample of your additional comments about your experiences 'Going Green':

What is your district doing to make your schools 'greener'?

Our middle school is designated as a Washington Green School ( and two of three elementary schools are also actively involved in the program. The Green Schools program requires support of faculty, staff, administration, and students. What was initially en effort at a single building is spreading to other buildings and becoming a district-wide effort.

Our middle school's annual school improvement program has a sustainability component.  Some examples are reducing use of paper, composting food waste from the middle school cafeteria, using low-VOC materials in new construction projects.
Allison Munch-Rotolo, school board member, Washington

Hired a sustainability coordinator.  Looking carefully at energy, gas and water use.  Committing to LEED buildings.  Retrofitting lighting and HVAC equipment.  Building gardens.  Working with curriculum.  Composting in schools.
sustainability coordinator, North Carolina

Less paper being used, more communication through technology, more classwork being done with smart boards, energy programs throughout the district.
school board member, South Carolina

We're slightly green.  We have an Integrated Pest Management policy, but don't follow it.  We supposedly use green cleaning products, but we use really toxic stuff, too.  Our superintendent says that recycling isn't feasible.  Disregarding my suggestions, we used an unreliable company to do an energy audit, and then we didn't do anything.  Two of our schools have gardens.  One has a garden across the street that isn't a school district-organized garden, but the superintendent won't let the teachers and students participate.

Using fewer toxic cleaning products.  Having better policies.
school board member, Ohio

We installed a solar array, switched to more efficient HVAC systems and do not allow our school buses to idle.
school board member, Pennsylvania

Rehabbing some schools building new green schools.
Phil Cooper, professional development/ researcher, Georgia

Some recycling, use some less toxic cleaning chemicals, have reduced energy use with increased efficiency. Looking at future solar schools.
school board member, New Mexico

"Partially" would be a more accurate answer. We used most of the funds raised from the federally-subsidized QSCB bond program to pay for energy efficiency improvements in many of our older schools.  These included more efficient HVAC systems and windows. We also used most of the $1million capital funds our county granted us last year to pay for upgraded lighting systems in three of our schools.  We are hoping these projects will provide savings in our utility bills which will make it possible to pay for more upgrades. We would very much like to implement other "green" projects, but first we need to convince our county commissioners that it would be a wise investment. Currently they are not willing to invest money in our school buildings.

In addition to the steps mentioned above, we have contracted with a consulting firm that has provided audits of our energy use and has held training seminars with all school staff in an effort to make them aware how their actions can reduce our energy bills.  We have also tied many of our schools into a centralized HVAC control system which makes it easier to adjust room temperatures when no one is using the school building. We have also conducted an experiment with the "black school" concept in which all school lights, interior and exterior, are turned off at night, but are tied into our burglar alarm system and are set to all come on if an intruder or fire is detected.  This had a very rapid payback time and we intend to implement it at additional schools.  The cost to implement at one schools was $4000. We are conducting a test of LED lights in classrooms at two of our schools and in one auditorium; however, we do not currently have the budget to implement LED lighting on a large scale. Our energy consultant has also implemented a detailed accounting system to track our energy bills. Through that system we were able to identify that we had a significant water leak at one of our high schools.  A leak in the main pipe leading to the school was found and repaired.  Based on the condition of the pipe and the water usage data, we believe the pipe had been leaking for years.  By stopping the leak we estimate we will reduce our water bill at that school by $32,000 this year. Overall we believe our efforts to become more frugal users of energy and water saved our school district $1.3 million in the past fiscal year.  That is an 18% reduction in our total bill for utilities.
Jeff Phillips, school board member, North Carolina

Solar power, looking into wind power, hopeful plans for a community garden.
School board member, New York

Replaced windows in most buildings at great energy savings; placed recycle bins at most schools that community can also use; purchased chromebooks for English writing classes to save on paper.
Terry Reed, school board member, Indiana

Every school we have built in the past 8 years is silver LEED certified. We have seen a tremendous savings on our energy costs. We also built a high school where a brick quarry was housed many years ago. When we began to excavate the site, we actually used the excavation dirt and had it sent to a local brick company and made the bricks which surround the new high school. The high school is named River Bluff High School and the bricks were named River Bluff blend. We truly reduced our footprint by making our own bricks!
Cynthia Smith, school board member, Lexington One, South Carolina

We are recycling and plan to install LED lights as replacements come due.
Gil Burroughs, school board member, North Carolina

Getting all buildings to energy star designation. Recycling now contributes over $300,000 to budget revenue.
Jim, school board member, South Carolina

All new schools meet LEED standards for new school construction  1:1 devices for instruction Cloud-based platforms for resources, curriculum, and information.
principal, Maryland

We are making effort to reduce energy consumption this year:

  • Turning off bulbs that light vending machines through the campus, not use showcase lighting if not needed
  • Using half lighting anywhere can feasibly work (hallways, gyms, common spaces)
  • Lights on tennis courts will be on a timer to assure they are off at night
  • Close blinds in classrooms and common spaces to reduce heat during warmer months, assure blinds in classrooms and common spaces are open during colder months for indirect heat
  • Cool air off in buildings 3:30 PM – 6:30 AM during hot, warmer months
  • Lower temperature in buildings during winter months between 3:30 PM—6:30 AM to 55 degrees (current setting is 60 degrees)
  • When buildings are student occupied, heat is not less than 68 degrees, cooling temperature not to exceed 78 degrees with 65 percent humidity
  • Cooling is turned off in buildings one week after school is out, two weeks before school starts (cooling is used only by custodians within areas as needed for cleaning/maintaining purposes during non-student times)
  • Unplug all types of chargers in classrooms and work spaces when not used
  • Unplug microwaves at all times except when in use
  • Plan for replacing/fixing inefficient AC units in the high school will be identified and followed for the next five years
  • Personal desk-type lamps only used when classroom overhead lights are not
  • Unplug all electronic equipment during summer (buildings put on check-out sheet for teachers and staff)
  • Water fountains cooling compressors turned off seasonally
  • Replace all T-12 lights with T-8 over the course of the coming three years

Steve Darnell, superintendent, Indiana

We recently built two schools that have or will have LEED certification.  Our middle school, completed a couple of years ago, obtained the highest LEED certification every achieved in the State of Wisconsin and the seventh highest LEED certification in the world. Our new elementary school, scheduled to open this fall, we believe will obtain an even higher LEED certification.

Our new elementary school is entirely green incorporating special glass, geo-thermal heating and cooling, wood used from sustainable forests, low-flow toilets, and even roof vegetation to name a few.
school board member, Wisconsin

Our district was recently awarded the US Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools District Sustainability Award.  We have been working to operate more sustainably for more than 10 years and have multiple systems in place. I would direct you to the US Dept. of Education Green Ribbon Schools website for our application: This is a synopsis of our efforts from the, Green Ribbon Schools program book: Greendale School District, Wisconsin  Ten Years of Green, Healthy Sustainability Greendale School District (GSD) has focused on operating green, healthy, and sustainable schools for almost a decade.  With five buildings located in suburban Greendale, Wis., GSD has documented significant achievement in sustainability with the leadership of a visionary business manager and the work of a diverse green team. Ten years ago, GSD energy scores were dismal and, in 2004, a deliberate focus to correct that trend began.  After becoming an ENERGY STAR Partner, the district reduced its energy bills by $200,000 from 2006 to 2011.  Efforts included replacing all school heating plants with energy-efficient systems and retrofitting all lighting in district buildings to T-8 energy efficient lighting, with occupancy sensors in most places.  The district added digital systems for controlling the environment in the high school, a solar energy hot water system to heat the pool and for domestic hot water, and new fixtures and fountains to save water.  The Kilowatt Challenge was initiated in May 2013, encouraging each building to reduce energy use by 5 percent.  Posters in each school are updated with energy usage each month to raise awareness and encourage staff to use energy wisely because each building that reaches its goal will receive a portion of the dollars saved. Checks of recycling efforts are being tracked in a Google document to find ways to reduce waste.  Classrooms and offices were de-cluttered using a professional organizer and an initiative to reduce copying costs resulted in a $20,000 cost savings per year.  Turf athletic field was installed to save water, and maintenance and eco-friendly floors eliminate the use of chemicals for cleaning and reduce maintenance. GSD promotes healthy schools by supporting wellness, good nutrition, and regular physical activity as a part of the total environment where children learn and participate in positive dietary and lifestyle practices.  The district sponsors free access to health care services provided by a nurse practitioner at a school-based clinic for students, staff, their dependents, and retirees.  The Student and Family Assistance Program gives free confidential access to a variety of professionals for consultation on issues that commonly affect students and their families.  It is available to all household members, whether the problem is related to a student, an adult, or the whole family.  To promote good nutrition, the district’s food service offers healthier choices to students and staff through the school lunch program to meet the requirements of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act.  The district is launching its “Get Moving and Stay Active 60 Minutes a Day” initiative for families with an introduction to a variety of workouts and physical activities offered to students and families at the annual Parents as Partners conference. Students from all schools contribute to the school garden at the high school—planting and tending the garden.  Teachers use the outdoor classroom for science instruction at all levels.  The youngest learners plant pumpkins and harvest vegetables.  Elementary and middle school students plant seeds and their seedlings in classrooms.  Other students raise worms to help nourish the soil and create compost. The outdoor classroom offers a practical location for high school science experiments and instruction.  GHS Science Essentials students work with elementary school students in the garden.  High school job training students are involved in planning, planting, and harvesting produce, as well as preparing a variety of foods with it for Free Sample Fridays to introduce students and staff to new, healthy foods as well!  During a summer garden challenge in 2013, each school developed a team and was given a garden plot on which to raise vegetables, with an award given to the greatest producing team.  The school gardens generated 769 pounds of produce in 2013. Students record and organize their understandings of energy as they work on non-fiction reading.  Students also play the School Savings game from the KEEP Energy and Your School activity guide to learn more ways to conserve energy at school.  The district’s “Green Team,” facilitated by a sustainability specialist, with faculty members, staff, students, and community members, continues to drive concepts into the curriculum and provide resources to teachers for incorporating them in the curriculum. Late in 2013, Greendale Schools’ Canterbury and Middle School woods and Greendale High School woods became registered as school forests in the Wisconsin Community Forest Program.  This certification will allow for the expansion of the district’s outdoor classroom space and increase opportunities within the existing curriculum at all grade levels and across disciplines.  This designation means Greendale Schools will be eligible to receive free forest management assistance along with free seedlings from the state nursery program.  The district also will be able to apply for grants from the Wisconsin Environmental Education Board and to receive assistance from the statewide school forest education specialist.  As the forest management plan is implemented, the additional outdoor learning spaces will expand opportunities for students to see first-hand how species interact and how living and nonliving things work together to support a healthy ecosystem.
Erin Green, director of business and sustainability, Wisconsin