Denair could reap substantial savings on utility costs by investing in upgraded systems for AC, water, lighting

The Denair Unified School District spends nearly $400,000 a year on utilities – electricity, water and sewer service. A comprehensive project to upgrade lighting, air conditioning and heating, reduce water use and leverage technology to make everything run more efficiently was discussed at Thursday night’s board meeting.

Initial estimates indicate that the systems could reduce Denair’s utility bills by 30% a year – roughly $120,000 – offsetting the cost of the $2.5 million project over the next 15 years.

Projects would touch every campus in the district:

  • A new heating and cooling system in the Denair High gymnasium
  • Replacing the aged heating and cooling units at Denair Elementary Charter Academy
  • Installing HVAC sensors at each school, allowing staff to better control temperatures and save money
  • Installing new energy efficient LED lighting at Denair Middle School, the football stadium and outdoors across the district to cut costs by 50%
  • Installing advanced irrigation control systems districtwide and sports field sprinklers at DHS

Earlier this year, the district formally partnered with Climatec on the project. Two representatives from the company outlined the district’s needs as well as proposed solutions Thursday night. The board took no action. That could come at its November meeting, when a final financing plan will be presented.

Linda Covello, Denair’s chief business official, is working on ways to pay for the estimated $2,467,197 project. She said the district expects to contribute $500,000 (paid for by DMS bond money) and use what is known as a municipal lease to finance the rest.

The first lease payment of roughly $120,000 would not be due for 12 to 18 months, Covello said. It would be paid for by the anticipated savings from lower utility costs during that time. Future annual payments over the life of the 15-year lease also would be funded by utility savings.

If the district qualifies for any rebates for installing the new systems, it will pursue them, trustees were told.

If trustees approve a contract next month, work could begin soon after. The Climatec officials said most of the work would occur on nights and weekends so as not to disrupt classes.

In other action Thursday, the board:

  • Heard a report about Project Life, a program for 17 special education students at the high school that involves teaching them critical life skills in a comprehensive effort to help them land jobs. The program was initiated last year and is now led by teacher Renee Hall. It is responsible for the Coyote Coffee Cart, staffed by special education students. It also has partnered with employers to place six students in workplaces in the community.
  • Listened as Superintendent Terry Metzger outlined her plans for teacher training focused on three key areas: clear, coherent curriculum; authentic literacy; and soundly structured instruction. “It’s a multi-year plan,” Metzger explained. “If we can filter everything through those areas, we can see student achievement improve and change.”
  • Unanimously approved creation of the First Priority Club at the high school. It is intended to help students develop skills such as leadership, integrity, character, teamwork, time-management, event planning and public speaking through faith-based principles. Students of all beliefs will be welcomed. Weekly discussions will be based on a format called HOPE (Help, Overcome, Prepare, Engage).
  • Voted 5-0 to ratify a salary range adjustment for 15 non-teaching employees. The decision fulfills a promise first made in 2007-08, but frozen when the district faced financial difficulties two years later. It will cost the district $29,000, paid for out reserves carried over from last year.
  • Smiled when Covello reported that overall enrollment has grown to 1,307 students, four more than anticipated in this year’s budget.
  • Listened to an update on the number of students considered to be English Learners in the district. Coordinator Maria Olivas said there are 223 — 141 at DECA, 41 at the middle school, 18 at Denair High and 23 at Denair Charter Academy. Of that total, 15 are considered to be “newcomers” (students who have attended U.S. schools for six months or less).
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