Green champions at Boulder Valley School District seek help to build momentum

By Natalia Bayona

Officials at Boulder Valley School District, humbled by national environmental recognition they’ve secured this year, hope the community’s support will further their efforts to incorporate sustainability in district learning environments.

Dr. Bruce Messinger, the district’s superintendent, proposed a property tax increase to provide $576 million toward capital improvement needs in schools and issued an Educational Facilities Master Plan defining the required projects. A question on the November ballot will ask voters to allow the district to sell bonds for those renovations.

According to the master plan, many repairs are necessary to maintain safe, healthy facilities for students and staff. Over 50 percent of the plan’s funds will go toward repairing or replacing materials and installations in schools that require immediate service. Seventy-two percent of district schools are over 30 years old, Messinger said.

All proposed projects will be completed within the guidelines of a Sustainability Management System (SMS), an evolving plan created in 2009 that guides implementation of sustainable practices in schools.  SMS’s mission will be supported by projects in the master plan, such as renovations to heating and ventilation systems and replacements of aged boilers and windows that boost energy efficiency at schools.

The district’s sustainability coordinator, Dr. Ghita Carroll, a recent winner of Clean Energy Education’s Government Leadership Award, says there is “not an ongoing identified source for project implementation.” While donations from community partners have helped make the district’s visions in sustainability possible in the past, those funds aren’t limitless, Carroll said.

Last year, the SMS enabled the district to exceed a projected 5 percent reduction in energy use from pre-SMS levels in 2008. The district saved over $303,000 in energy costs in 2013, mostly due to their increased reliance on renewable energy and efforts from their Energy Team to accurately track energy use and implement energy saving programs. In accordance with a Sustainable Energy Plan, the district is working to develop a five-year plan with new goals for reducing energy use by 20 percent in 2019.

A move toward zero net energy and waste, non-potable water use, and the integration of an Environmental Literacy Plan for students and staff are among the long-term achievements the district hopes to see.

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