Quilcene school aims for energy-efficient facilities

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The Quilcene School District aims to make its facilities more energy-efficient over the summer, and has partnered with an engineering firm out of Renton to map out a plan over spring break.

Quilcene Superintendent Frank Redmon explained the district had applied for small school modernization grants, but had not been selected to receive state money.

“We decided we’d try to get it done anyway,” said Redmon, noting the district put out a request for proposals from contractors and energy service companies. “We’ve prioritized those energy-efficiency measures that would have the greatest impact on student learning.”

Redmon expects the district and ATS Automation Tooling Systems to work together over spring sreak to clarify priorities and nail down the exact cost of the project. Companies like ATS re-set furnace and cooling systems to only run when necessary, to take advantage of energy price dips and find ways to update or tune systems to use less energy.

“We started with a ballpark estimate of $800,000, but we hope to knock that down quite a ways as we sharpen our pencils,” Redmon said. “We need to address the ventilation and heating in our high school building, which is the oldest structure on campus, and the HVAC control systems in the elementary school.”

Redmon stipulated that the $800,000 is an anticipated maximum, because the Quilcene School Board has not yet determined the scope of work.

“Our work with ATS will start this year, but will likely be completed in the next budget cycle,” Redmon said. “In this year’s budget, we have set aside $400,000 for capital projects funds, to help support the work we hoped would come through state grants.”

Redmon expects the other monies — “again, the amount depends on the scope of work” — will probably come from a combination of several funds next year, to be determined.

“We are still in the process of budgeting for next year,” Redmon said.

Redmon was reticent to commit to any concrete plans before district officials and ATS had made a full evaluation.

In addition to making students more comfortable and removing distractions, Redmon said the district can anticipate savings on energy bills with better-designed heating and cooling systems.

“According to ATS, we could save as much as $15,000 per year,” Redmon said. “The enhanced student comfort would be reason enough to do it, to my mind, but it always helps when we can show taxpayers that we’ll be making more efficient use of their dollars.”

Redmon intends for the energy-efficiency enhancements to benefit his students in another way, as ATS has agreed to allow the students follow their professionals during their work over spring break and summer vacation.

“We’ll be asking our students to see how many of them would be willing to stick around when school’s out,” Redmon said. “They can do some job-shadowing, and have a great opportunity to connect with real-world vocations, as they look to their own futures.”

Moe Salem, business development manager for ATS, agreed with Redmon that increasing the school’s energy efficiency constitutes a “long-term value-added” improvement.

Salem also shares Redmon’s enthusiasm for treating the students to some hands-on lessons.

“We want them to learn about the environment too,” Salem said. “We’ll be able to teach them why we’re doing this, and what impact it will have.”

Salem sees valuable lessons in ensuring safety and analyzing data for the Quilcene students.

“We can show them how we’ll be quantifying the energy savings, and how we’ll be tracking them over time,” Salem said. “There’s so much data out there that knowing how to utilize it is one of the most valuable skills you can have.”

Salem praised the Quilcene School District for attempting to plan ahead, rather than just “reacting to their short-term needs.”

Among the school districts ATS has worked with in Washington are Central Kitsap and Franklin Pierce in Tacoma.

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