Since 1999, over 200 schools in Maryland have been awarded the “Green Schools” flag. Successful Green Schools programs integrate hands-on energy and environmental efforts with science, math and writing to boost student achievement.
The Green Schools movement spreads across the country as more education leaders discover the benefits of saving money while improving academic performance. The reasons why were on display at a recent briefing sponsored by the Environmental and Energy Study Institute on Capitol Hill.
Energy costs are second only to personnel on most schools’ operating costs, according to Blanche Sheinkopf of PartnersGREEN. Most schools can save real money through changes in operation and maintenance practices, freeing money for the classroom.
Speaking on behalf of the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council, architect Gary Bailey says the biggest impact in school design results from day-lighting. Designing for daylight cuts energy costs, improves academic performance and even boosts Vitamin D. Other design features like better insulation and water-saving features are also important. Bailey boasts of the benefits of including a computer display in school foyer showing energy savings and on-site generation which gives teachers new data every day for use in science and math classes. And don’t overlook solar hot water systems for the cafeteria, an inexpensive way to use the sun, he says.
Also speaking at the EESI forum, Sue Robertson emphasized that the federal stimulus package includes money that schools districts can use to raise energy efficiency. Roberton’s organization, Council of Educational Facilities Planners International, is working to identify new resources for schools.
Sonny Savoie, president of the National School Boards Association, can vouch for the money-saving potential of energy efficiency. His school board in St. Charles Parish engaged an energy services contractor that has produced savings almost twice the cost of the contract. Chuck Saylors, president-elect of the National Parent Teachers Association, says that Green Schools are a natural fit for his organization because they promise to improve student health and raise academic performance. Funding for Green Schools can be a powerful tool for reducing the disparities that still plague our public schools, he adds.