DPS goes Green with projects that reduce energy costs, help students achieve and improve health

Immediate best practices implementation leads to comprehensive sustainability management plan

With an emphasis on projects that have a positive fiscal impact but also contribute constructively to student achievement and community health and well-being, Detroit Public Schools is designing and implementing  a comprehensive Sustainability Management Plan including energy, waste management, transportation, nutrition, and indoor and outdoor site environments that involves educators, students and parents as well as an array of partners.

A weeklong series of project launches, activities and public tours is planned for November 26 – 30 to showcase the green initiatives. See schedule below.

“As we develop DPS’ Sustainability Management Plan, we are also implementing best-practices in green and sustainable school management,” said Emergency Financial Manager Roy S. Roberts. “These best-practices help boost student achievement and help prepare our next generation for the jobs of the future by teaching them about sustainability and the role it plays in preserving our future.”

DPS has seven new LEED Green Schools which were built using fewer toxic materials, use less energy, and have more natural light, better acoustics and air quality. Six are in the Silver LEED Certification process, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. High School is seeking LEED Gold status. Renaissance High School, completed in 2005, is also LEED Certified. The district also anticipates a new Solar program with DTE Energy through which DTE would produce solar energy at two high school campuses, and a new district-wide recycling program.

Fifty-four schools have signed up to participate in DPS’ new Go Green Challenge which  serves as  an opportunity for schools to reduce their energy costs and share in the savings through engaging students, faculty and staff in best-practice energy management.  Schools that reduce costs by 10 percent will win $1,000.

Each of the schools has established a Green Team with students, teachers and facility managers. Students can also become Energy Monitors at their school and will receive badges and patrol duties such as inspecting for lights and computers left on, wasteful small appliances, damaged or missing weather stripping or other energy leaks to the outdoors, and opportunities to replace old lights with newer efficient models. A model program is being reviewed through which Student Monitors will be able to give “tickets” to adults who are wasting energy and “rewards” to those that are saving energy. A “Taking it Home” element is also being created for students to take energy saving ideas home and reduce costs for DPS families.

In partnership with the Detroit-based WARM Training Center, 10 full-time AmeriCorps National Service members will serve at DPS schools supporting the DPS Go Green Challenge.  AmeriCorps members will work with school Green Teams to implement energy saving projects, assist with utility bill audits and energy audits and conduct community outreach. The program also includes 36 scholarships for DPS high school seniors with 36 part-time summer jobs weatherizing low-income homes in Detroit. The WARM partnership programs are funded with a $242,000 grant from the AmeriCorps National Service Program and this is the first year that all resources are being dedicated to DPS students.

“WARM is happy to work with DPS on its Go Green Challenge,” said Bob Chapman, WARM’s Executive Director. “This innovative program will educate students while it saves the school system money over the long run and is good for the environment as well.  That’s a triple win!”

Science educators across the district are also working to develop daily PA announcements regarding green programs and energy savings and materials re-use tips that can be undertaken in each school in conjunction with student research projects.

Each program in the sustainability plan is designed to have financial, academic, and community health benefits. A Student Transportation bus route efficiency/anti-idling program is designed to cut fuel costs, as well as reduce asthma-related illnesses by reducing emissions. A cost-effective integrated green cleaning and pest-management approach will eliminate use of herbicides and reduce toxins indoors, while helping students and their parents learn about air quality best practices and reducing the overall amount of toxins entering ground water.

“How we use energy in our schools not only has an impact on the financial bottom line, it also directly affects student achievement.  By working to improve thermal comfort, visual acuity, and air quality, our students will be more comfortable in class and better able to concentrate on learning,” said DPS Energy Manager Emile Lauzzana. “If a student is too hot or too cold, or they are in an under or over lit class room, this impedes their ability to concentrate and increases off-task behaviors, school absences and illnesses.”

Lauzzana said that the most common request teachers have made since he took his post in April is a recycling program, which is in the planning phase with a launch planned in Spring 2013. A comprehensive recycling and educational program offers home lessons as well, he said, as students can begin recycling efforts with their families which could spur greater acceptance of community-wide recycling programs.

In the area of energy management, DPS has already recovered $195,000 in billing errors from utilities and is now constructing detailed tracking and auditing systems with supplier EnergyCAP, twice awarded the Energy Star Partner of the Year recognition by the U.S. Department of Energy.

With the focus on healthy bodies equating to healthy minds and reduced obesity for the city’s youth, Detroit Public Schools has generated national attention for its school nutrition improvements, which include removing fried foods and pork from school cafeteria menus, focusing on whole grain ingredients and local fruits and vegetables including local gardening programs, as well as meatless school lunch days. Internally, DPS plans to shift a greater share of waste disposal costs to its Office of School Nutrition, which is estimated to account for 60 percent of the schools’ waste stream. This is a savings to the general fund budget.  Additional efforts will include waste composting.

Roberts pointed to General Motors which achieved a 31 percent energy use reduction, operating 100 facilities that are “landfill-free,” while producing 30 MW of solar energy. The San Diego Unified School District saved $5 million annually in energy costs and $400,000 annually in water costs and now recycles 3,600 tons annually.

Industry statistics show businesses achieve 10-15 percent increases in productivity and retailers reach 5-15 percent gains in sales through energy efficient practices.  The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reports that energy efficient, green school buildings result in 5-10 percent improvement in test scores.

Detroit Public Schools November 26 – 30 Green Week activities include:

  • Tours of new East English Village Preparatory Academy, Monday at 2:00 p.m. 17200 Southampton.
  • Meatless Monday lunch for all DPS students
  • Home weatherization demos by Detroit’s WARM Training Center in conjunction with DPS and Detroit Parent Network, Monday from 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. in the Ludington  Magnet Middle School Parent Resource Center, 19501 Berg Rd. A full week of parent workshops will follow.
  • Drew Transition Center Community Garden and Hoop House Tours with healthy salad cooking demonstration, Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. 9600 Wyoming St.
  • Randolph Career and Technical Center students will hold a DIY home improvement demonstration Thursday on constructing above-ground garden boxes at 1:30 p.m. 17101 Hubbell St.
  • Golightly Career and Technical Center’s Mass Media program will offer an ink cartridge drop off Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the school, 900 Dickerson. This will repeat monthly on the fourth Thursday of each month starting in 2013.
  • Weeklong: Student scavenger hunts with Green themes. School Messenger calls to all parents with energy saving tips. Student Green Poster Contest. Green website, logo unveiling, PA announcements, poster boards at LEED schools, media ops.

For full details, go to: detroitk12.org/gogreen


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