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Schools look at energy use, costs for savings

The Morgan Messenger of Berkeley Springs, West Virginia

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Morgan County Schools has implemented a new energy management program in hopes of saving on electricity costs at the county's seven schools. In the last fiscal year, those costs rose to $773,236, school officials said.

Electricity costs for the last fiscal year 2015 were $773,236, up $41,723 from the year before, when costs stacked up to $731,513.

A payment from the county schools to Potomac Edison in May for monthly service was $95,307.

Last month, Superintendent David Banks instituted an energy checklist for school staff. It included recommendations from schools and Transportation and Maintenance Director Joyce White for ways to reduce costs at each level of the school organization.

Energy checklist

The new checklist asks staff to make sure they are keeping doors and windows closed when the heat or air conditioning is running, turning off lights in unoccupied rooms, turning off computers and monitors at the end of the day and unplugging electronics appliances like TVs, VCRs and DVD players over the weekends and during the summer.

Computer labs are shut down remotely at 7 p.m. on Fridays and during holidays.

The savings is significant when you multiply the number of machines in the school system, Banks noted.

Some 40% of energy consumed is for lighting. TVs, VCRs and DVD players draw a small amount of power even when turned off.

Banks said replacing lighting and windows with energy-efficient ones every year is a priority. Those energy savings will be turned back into replacing additional lights and windows.

Banks also said Potomac Edison officials will talk with students about energy conservation. He hopes to enlist students in the efforts while teaching them a valuable life skill.

School staff, new fees

Teachers and other school staff have been urged to use teacher's lounges to store cold foods and their lunches and to heat and prepare their food items. Microwaves draw a lot of power when in use and costs add up for small refrigerators and appliances.

Banks asked staff to follow these steps daily so they can reduce spending and use those savings to "keep those things we believe are most valuable to educating our students."

School officials put in place an annual fee for teachers who have individual microwaves or small refrigerators in their classrooms.

The fee is $25 for a small refrigerator and $10 for a microwave. Fee exceptions are the nurse's office and those teachers for whom the equipment is medically necessary.

Banks acknowledged that some staff was unhappy about the fees, but said they were needed to help cover the appliances' usage costs.

Efforts at schools

Widmyer Elementary Principal Rhett Beckman said his school staff is minimizing light use, being more conscious of having lights off in unoccupied rooms and keeping doors shut to contain heat or air conditioning.

The majority of teachers in the county's largest elementary school have personal microwaves or refrigerators in their classrooms for kindergarten snacks, if parents send in foods that need to be refrigerated or for medical needs.

Most teachers are keeping the appliances and are paying the fees. Beckman said like with any change there's been some grumbling, "but we do it."

The school is looking at ways to purchase an additional microwave and refrigerator for their staff lounge.

Greenwood Elementary Principal Barbara Miller said the new energy management policy isn't really affecting her school. They have one cafeteria refrigerator and microwave for the staff, PTA and school that everyone uses. They also have one office refrigerator and microwave for which they'll pay the fees. The office refrigerator mostly holds ice for student injuries. Doing their part

Miller said staff and students are turning out lights on sunny days and in classrooms when not in use and also leaving lights off in the vestibule and hallway unless they are needed. Staff is also ensuring that computers are turned off at the end of the day and being responsible with heating and air conditioning.

The school is only asking for things they absolutely have to have, Miller said.

Pleasant View Elementary Principal Keri Cunningham Chilcote said her school has one microwave and refrigerator and has never had a teacher's lounge. Teachers always eat lunch together in the library.

The school has the lights off a little more often now. Kids think it's cool and say it makes them feel calm, Chilcote said. Staff there changed the copier to power/save mode and is unplugging things more.

Staff always looks for creative ways to do things, Chilcote said. Despite the efforts to make further cuts, the school climate remains positive and they will still continue educating kids, she said.

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Original Publication Date: November 4, 2015

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