School district has energy concerns

Officials eye ways to save money by using power more efficiently.

Puget Sound Energy announced an 8.3 percent increase in the cost of electricity two months ago.

South Kitsap director of facilities and operations Tom O’Brien noticed.

O’Brien said at Wednesday night’s school board meeting that he projected it would cost the district an extra $121,312.

He met with superintendent Dave LaRose and the two discussed cost-cutting measures.

One of the first examinations dealt with heat. According to O’Brien’s resource conservation-management report, the bulk of the district’s utility budget goes toward electricity.

The district spent $1.5 million on it during the 2007-08 school year, compared with natural gas ($123,439), fuel oil ($61,702), garbage and recycling ($142,303), sewer ($99,179) and water ($117,690).

O’Brien found that the district can save an average of 3 percent on electricity for every degree it lowers the temperature in its buildings.

He researched how other districts heat their schools, such as Central Kitsap and Federal Way, and said they set their buildings to similar temperatures.

But O’Brien discovered other ways to save energy and put them into effect last month.

Heating standards for classrooms and offices remain between 68-72 degrees, while air conditioning sets in when it reaches 75 in those locations.

But those standards in gymnasiums and hallways are currently set between 66-70 degrees. And it’s now 60 degrees beginning at 6:30 p.m. on weekdays and throughout the day on weekends and holidays.

“We don’t have a choice if we’re going to heat or light our schools, but there’s always some waste,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien doesn’t have figures on how much that will save, but said it won’t be the only change.

The district is looking into replacing the lights in gymnasiums, which were installed in 2000-01, with energy-saving florescent lights.

Beyond that, he wants lights turned off in unoccupied areas and the elimination or reduction of what he deems as unnecessary plug loads, such as refrigerators, coffee pots and swapping 1,500-watt convection heaters with radiant versions.

O’Brien also wants to work with district personnel on computer power management.

“We’re hoping these little things are going to add up,” O’Brien said.

He also will issue “report cards” to each school to help them monitor progress.

O’Brien said that will focus on each individual building rather than comparing South Kitsap High School to an elementary school, because each has different energy needs.

In other school news:

• District assistant superintendent for business and support Terri Patton said SKSD lost 33.48 full-time equivalent students in December, which she said isn’t unusual.

Not all students — kindergartners are considered half a student — are viewed as full-time by the state.

• Board member Kathryn Simpson said she has heard people say that three of Kitsap County’s school districts — Central, North and South — should unify to save money. She said the notion is misguided, since SKSD spends 77.8 percent of what the sprawling Seattle School District pays to educate each student.

• South Kitsap School Supporters will have a rally to support school-funding measures at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Safeway parking lot on Bethel Road.

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