To Save Money, Denair Unified to Make Major Upgrades in Areas of Lighting, Air, Heating, Water Usage

Submitted by Denair Unified School District:

The Denair Unified School District Board of Trustees voted to invest nearly $2.5 million Thursday night to upgrade lighting, air conditioning and heating, reduce water use and leverage technology to make everything run more efficiently.

Under a 15-year financing plan outlined to the board, savings from utility bills that today total almost $400,000 a year will pay for the project, which will touch all four campuses in the district.

Conservative estimates indicate that the systems will reduce Denair’s utility bills by 30% a year – roughly $120,000 – offsetting the cost of the project, which will be led by Climatec. Work is expected to begin this month and be completed by the end of the summer of 2020.

Among the projects:

  • 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

Linda Covello, Denair’s chief business official, said the district will contribute $500,000 (paid for by DMS bond money and/or fees collected from housing development) and use what is known as a municipal lease to finance the rest.

The first lease payment of $126,514 is not due until May 2021, Covello said, by which time the district is projected to have accumulated more than $171,000 in utility bill savings and operational costs. 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, Climatec will pursue them, trustees were told. Most of the work would occur on nights and weekends so as not to disrupt classes.

Trustees Regina Gomes, Crystal Sousa, Ray Prock Jr. and Carmen Wilson voted in favor of the project. Trustee Kathi Dunham-Filson was absent.

In other action Thursday, the board:

  • Heard an update about a mentoring program for DECA students. Cindy Cunningham-Gipp of Sierra Vista Child & Family Services in Modesto said six boys and one girl currently are being mentored one hour a week by adult volunteers, but that more children could be served if there were more community volunteers.
  • Listened to a short presentation from a Lisa Hinkelman, executive director of ROX (Ruling Our eXperiences), an Ohio-based nonprofit focused on educating and empowering girls and creating environments that foster girls’ confidence, self-esteem and successful decision-making. Hinkelman and two other ROX representatives have been in Denair for three days this week, training five Denair staff members and seven from other school districts in Stanislaus County on the program. Girls in grades five through nine selected by staff members meet weekly for 20 weeks.
  • Approved formation of a World Languages Club at Denair Middle School. The club is intended to enrich the personal lives of students through enhancing awareness, acceptance and appreciation of other cultural behaviors and mindsets of other cultures. Students will be exposed to different educational experiences to acquire an open mind regarding other cultural perspectives and cultures.
  • Heard a report on the state preschool, transitional kindergarten and kindergarten programs at DECA from Principal Kelly Beard and four of her teachers. The preschool is a three-hour program with a morning and afternoon class that provides a foundation for learning. TK is for children who turn 5 between Sept. 1 and Dec. 2 to help prepare them for kindergarten the following year. DECA has two kindergarten programs – traditional and Dual Language Immersion – from which parents can choose.
  • Heard an update about history and social science programs being piloted by teachers at the middle school as well as Denair Charter Academy and DECA.

Listened as Superintendent Terry Metzger discussed Denair’s performance on the California Dashboard, which measures overall district performance in areas such as chronic absenteeism, suspension rate, English learner process, graduation rate, college and career readiness, English Language Arts and math. The results are reported each December on the State Department of Education website. Metzger said while there are still areas in which Denair can improve, the district is meeting state standards in each case.

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