According to the U.S. Education Department, energy costs are the second biggest expense for K-12 schools after salaries, with districts spending nearly $8 billion on those costs annually. Given the massive influx of stimulus funds coming to districts, they have an enormous opportunity to target the infusion toward their energy usage. In addition to upgrading aging facilities, energy investments offer cost savings that can help fund future priorities while providing a safe and comfortable learning environment.
One district that successfully did that is Port Allegany School District. Superintendent Gary Buchsen invested $1.9 million in federal stimulus funds into much-needed capital improvement projects that, once complete, will provide dramatically improved indoor air quality and a comfortable learning environment through renovating aging restrooms and kitchen facilities.
Not only will the project cut energy and operational costs by 23 percent, but it will also leave 60 percent of the total funding received for additional projects.
Taking a holistic, innovative approach to spending stimulus money can turn a one-time cash infusion into long-term success for students, teachers, and districts. To duplicate Port Allegany’s success, there are five key steps school district leaders can take:
1. Determine Priority Projects
School districts have a wide range of mission-critical needs and shifting priorities, so developing a clear list of both short and long-term priorities is key to determining how to maximize available funding. This year, many schools are focused on addressing air quality to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Federal stimulus bills specifically call out that money could be used to repair school facilities–especially ventilation systems–to improve air quality.
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