Margaret Raymond Driscoll is a nine-year Melrose School Committee member who is passionate about excellent teaching and learning for all public school students, and considers it a privilege to collaborate with others who share that passion. You can also follow her on Twitter at @MargaretDrisc. Just to be clear - opinions expressed here do not represent those of the Melrose Public Schools, the Melrose School Committee, or the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials - they are hers alone.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Energy Efficiency and the Melrose Public Schools

The topic of the day was energy at last week’s Melrose Master Plan meeting, and ultimately “…the ramification it has on budgets, public health and global climate.” While utility and capital improvement costs don’t fall into the Melrose Public Schools’ budget, energy use in schools ultimately impacts our students and staff, since the more efficiently energy is used, the more city expenses are lowered and school services are improved.

News you can use:
·               Of the top ten energy consuming municipal buildings in FY15, school buildings take the top eight spots.  The high school and middle school complex consumes almost 50% of total building energy in Melrose.
·               Between 2009 and 2016, school building energy use decreased by 3% while
o   adding significant technology;
o   increasing building use to accommodate before and after school programs; early-late weekend use for sports, etc.; and vacation and summer programming; and
o   making dramatic improvements to ventilation and fresh air exchange in all schools which benefits occupants but requires much more energy.
·               Many energy conservation measures have been completed in schools, often with Green Community Grant and utility incentive funding
o   MHS white roof and R30 insulation ($156K provided): 2011
o   Winthrop School EMS & ventilation upgrades: 2012
o   Six elementary schools: interior and exterior lighting upgrades ($233K provided): 2012
o   MHS science wing renovation ($11K provided): 2013
o   MVMMS gym light replacement ($12K provided): 2013
o   MHS HVAC upgrade ($345K provided): 2014
o   All schools: classroom lighting, LED parking lot lighting, insulation and air sealing, energy controls, comprehensive heating and ventilation system fixes, IT and vending machine controls ($315K provided): 2014
o   MHS Learning Commons renovations ($26K provided): 2016
·               The solar panels on top of the MHS and MVMMS roofs supply about 10% of the buildings’ energy.
·               DPW staffing and their training and technology has evolved
o   Melrose now employs a Building Systems Supervisor to manage the city’s increasingly sophisticated HVAC systems (no more “set-it-and-forget-it”).
o   Building temperatures can be managed by a DPW staff member from a device, making it unnecessary, for example, to travel to school buildings in dangerous weather to turn down the heat on snow days to save energy.
·               The concerted focus on energy in the city led to employment of an Energy Efficiency Manager in 2011, who has written grants and developed partnerships that have resulted in funding deferred maintenance challenges that would otherwise remain stalled.
·               Future challenges include managing increasing space (e.g. modular classrooms at Hoover and Winthrop) and adapting to climate change.
·               Future priorities include targeting the largest energy users (MHS, MVMMS, Lincoln, and Roosevelt), including retrofitting lighting, replacing outdated energy management controls at Lincoln, converting MHS cafeteria kitchen appliances to energy efficiency models, etc.

Infrastructure isn’t always headline-making or glamorous (and many of them we can’t even see), but improvements can significantly affect the health, safety, and learning environment for students. Thank you to the taxpayers, who through your tax dollars invest in and support positive changes like these!