Majority-Hispanic School District Directs a District-wide Energy Performance Contract Toward Educational Environmental Improvements

By Justin Benoit, Senior Project Manager at Energia

The impact of building infrastructure on equity was among the presentations made during the most recent conference of the New York State Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents (NYSALAS). An educational and informative discussion was led by Dr. Raymond Sanchez, Superintendent of Schools for Ossining UFSD, who I joined for the latter half of the presentation.

In his opening statement, Dr. Sanchez said, “Educational equity means that each child receives what they need to develop to their full academic and social potential.” That potential can not be reached in a sub-standard educational environment.

He noted that a U.S. Department of Education study found that, on average, student achievement between sub-standard buildings and above-standard buildings varied between 5-17 percentile points. The study made significant correlations between poor structural, conditional, and aesthetic attributes of school buildings and low student learning and achievement. Among the critical attributes highlighted were lighting, temperature & thermal comfort, acoustics, indoor air quality, and other environmental factors.

Throughout the presentation, Dr. Sanchez contrasted the conditions and achievements between sub-standard and above-standard facilities.

Referring to the USDOE report, he noted that “When classrooms are too hot, too cold, overcrowded, dust-filled, or poorly ventilated, students and teachers suffer.” And he contrasted that by pointing out that, “In well-maintained classrooms that are well-lit, clean, spacious, and heated and air-conditioned as needed, students feel supported and valued, they’re generally better able to learn and remain engaged in instruction and teachers are better able to do their jobs.”

“I think it’s going to be critical and a game changer for our students and staff – even in my recruitment efforts – to say to folks, ‘These are your working conditions and you have air conditioning in these spaces to work with your kids.’”

~ Dr. Raymond Sanchez, Superintendent of Schools for Ossining UFSD

A Matter of Equity

Ossining UFSD has made a commitment to excellence through equity in a series of programs that serve its diverse, primarily Hispanic students, including over 1,000 dual language students in 47 classes from Pre-K to 6th grade.

In a powerful slide during the presentation, Dr. Sanchez asked a simple pair of questions: “To whose culture are we most responsive and why? How do race, power, and privilege impact how responsive we are to diverse students?”

Inequitable Aspects of Facilities

A series of challenges faced across the district as it moved forward in its goals of achieving greater equity through improved facilities, including air conditioning, varying degrees of comfort related to indoor air quality (IAQ), low light levels, and temperature control issues.

And while addressing these challenges could yield improvements, there were barriers to equity facing these facilities projects, including the timeline for and uncertainty of voter approval, limited capital funding, and equipment availability or supply chain issues.

A Path Toward Progress

During my portion of the presentation, I detailed how an Energy Performance Contract (EPC) is a self-funded project that upgrades energy-inefficient equipment that is paid with the savings achieved. An Energy Performance Contract was the perfect vehicle for addressing and advancing Ossining UFSD’s equity goals and the barriers to equity Dr. Sanchez noted. An EPC addresses critical infrastructure upgrades while lowering the costs for energy consumption and building operations all while improving building health with no tax or budget impact.

An EPC enables upgrades of energy systems through a turnkey approach that uses guaranteed savings as the source of its funding. It enables the improvement of indoor environmental quality and learning environments. And it can be initiated simply through a BOE resolution that does not require a community vote.

Ossining UFSD Energy Anticipated Results

By applying a Proven Process for Energy Success toward its EPC, Ossining UFSD anticipates it will achieve a number of critical results by the completion of the project:

AIR CONDITIONING. Increased air conditioning in three schools based on the need or condition of existing HVAC equipment. The positive cash flow generated through the entire project will provide a path for the district to expand its A/C upgrades.

LIGHTING. District-wide LED lighting upgrade improved visibility for learning when installed throughout the schools.

TEMPERATURE CONTROL SYSTEM. A comprehensive system upgrade will help ensure comfort control that allows students to focus on their work.

AIR QUALITY. Infiltration reductions improve comfort and reduce drafts which also helps ensure comfort control for all students.

SOLAR POWER GENERATION. The district generated approximately 1.3MW of solar via installation of Solar PV Array systems at three schools.

Air conditioning was a particular point of interest for Dr. Sanchez, as he explained to the assembled attendees. “I think it’s going to be critical and a game changer for our students and staff – even in my recruitment efforts – to say to folks, ‘These are your working conditions and you have air conditioning in these spaces to work with your kids.’”

He noted that air conditioning was not just a “nice to have” for the end of the school year, but a “must have” as the district supports its summer educational activities.

Energia is Your Trusted, Independent Energy Savings Partner

During any energy savings project, it is important to work with an experienced group that acts as your advocate and guide when assessing your school district’s needs in order to obtain the greatest available benefits. Energia’s team of highly qualified energy engineers has years of experience managing energy saving projects. We partner to uncover energy cost savings that can be used to upgrade and modernize facilities.

Contact Energia Today for a No-Obligation Consultation or Energy Financial Assessment.

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