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WASHINGTON (KDVR) — As the White House announces a new grant program to make schools across the country more energy-efficient, two Colorado school districts are being recognized as the template for other districts across the country to follow.

The administration is recognizing both Adams 12 Five Star Schools and the Boulder Valley School District for their top efforts for efficient heating, ventilating and air conditioning technologies and sustainability.

“Colorado does this better than any other state in the nation right now,” White House Infrastructure Coordinator Mitch Landrieu said. “It actually lowers the cost that we have to pay for schools, so that money could get poured back into kids’ education.”

According to the White House, public schools spend an average of $8 billion every year on energy, which is the second-highest expense behind teacher salaries.

As a result, the White House on Monday announced a $500 million grant program through the Department of Energy, which would give funding to lower energy costs, improve air quality and make schools more energy efficient. It would be paid for through the Infrastructure Investment Act.

“In an effort to give them a healthy environment and give them a chance to learn better and to save costs, somebody actually has to do the work to create the system,” Landrieu said. “So you’re creating good-paying jobs, which of course we always need.”

Currently, the program is requesting information from schools, parents and students to get a better idea of how the grant program should function.

Landrieu said there are more than 100,000 school buildings in the country, but the focus should be on the 36,000 in need of serious repair that tend to be in poorer areas.

“We want to make sure the people who need it most get it first, and where there could be the greatest savings,” Landrieu said. “Not only from a health perspective but financially as well.”

Adams 12 Five Star Schools

Adams 12 built a sustainability management plan back in 2016, and formed a committee of more than 30 Five Star employees to discuss how the district can set goals around energy, water use, waste and community engagement. You can learn more about the plan on its website.

Adams 12 Five Star Schools has taken an integrated approach to managing both our buildings’ energy use and the indoor air quality of those spaces for more than a decade. Beginning with the Environmental Protection Agency’s Tools for Schools program, indoor air quality has been monitored and documented in every one of our schools on a set schedule. Additionally through a recent Bond measure, we have improved the HVAC control system we use to maintain air flow and thermal comfort in many of our buildings. A more advanced control system gives us the option to utilize real-time energy monitoring, implement demand-control ventilation, and easily adjust temperature setpoints or ventilation rates in order to be flexible under changing conditions such as a global pandemic or impacts from regional wildfire events. 

Shannon Oliver, Adams 12 Energy and Sustainability Manager

Boulder Valley School District

Boulder has been growing its sustainability program for ten years, and recently released a five-year action plan.

BVSD is thrilled and honored to be one of eight districts in the nation to be recognized by the Efficient and Healthy Schools Campaign and the Biden-Harris administration for our sustainability work, specifically in the areas of Efficient HVAC Technologies and Team Approach to Strategic Investments. 

BVSD has a long-standing commitment to institutionalizing sustainability into curriculum and operations. In 2009, the district created its first Sustainability Management Plan, which was followed by a Sustainable Energy Plan in 2013 when the district exceeded initial energy goals ahead of schedule. BVSD recently launched the newest iteration of the plan, celebrating more than ten years of this work, and highlighting progress, including a 13 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the last 5 years, and a 24 percent improvement in energy use despite adding square footage and air conditioning.  

“Having clear goals in place, and integrating these goals throughout our planning, both operationally and educationally, have had clear results for greenhouse gas emissions, improved indoor air quality, waste reduction and more,” BVSD sustainability coordinator Dr. Ghita Carroll explained.

Boulder Valley School District