$5,000 awarded to increase energy-conservation awareness
Blair was one of five MCPS schools to receive the $5,000 Green Schools award for decreasing its energy spending by 14.47 percent in the 2004 academic year. The money is to be used to support energy conservation efforts within the school, according to Blair's former business manager, Anne Alban.
The Green School award is given to schools in the Green School Program that demonstrate effective energy management. According to the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education homepage, this program is state-wide, with 96 member schools throughout Maryland.
Montgomery County Green Schools are awarded "40 percent of their energy savings, up to $5,000" according to the Green Schools Focus @ Montgomery County Public Schools website. According to Alban, as a participant in the program, Blair was recognized by the county for saving roughly $50,000 and for reducing its energy spending to $362,505.10 for 1,878,161 kilowatt-hours (kwh) in the 2003-2004 school year from 2,195,820 kwhs in 2002-2003.
The website also claimed that the Department of Facilities Management "projected a deficit for the energy budget for 2004-2005" due to recent electricity price increases, and MCPS high schools' energy spending has risen over the years to an average of $214,300 for the 2003-2004 school year.
Though Blair's energy expenditures were well above the MCPS high school average, Reginald Tobin, Blair's building services manager, believes that students, teachers and especially the building services staff in the school did a good job saving power throughout the past school year. "Blair's a big school. Big schools spend more; small schools spend less. That's normal," Tobin said. "[Building services workers] worked so hard to get it right. We tell [students and teachers] to shut down anything they don't need to use, and for the most part, they listen." Tobin also said that building services also send teachers emails to remind them to turn off electronics over weekends and holidays.
Tobin attributed part of the energy the school saved to its electrical problems. "Both chillers were out. Power surges burned the switches. The system had to be waited on. We saved a lot of energy because we couldn't use some appliances for a while," he said.
While Tobin thinks that the $5,000 should be used "to replenish Blair's equipment" and to get students to clean up and "make the building look nicer," the county mandated that the prize money be used to make the school "greener," according to Science Department Chair Jennifer Kempf, the unofficial manager of the Green Schools program at Blair.
The county encourages schools to use the $5,000 monetary prize to train students and teachers to save power and advises the establishment of new resource management clubs in the school to raise student awareness, Kempf said. But Kempf thinks that it will be better to put the money into the science department to fund environmental science classes, buy materials and "integrate [lessons on energy-conservation] into the curriculum."
The Green Schools' officials have been to Blair to train some teachers on effective energy use. "They gave us a bag of equipment: light meters, energy-efficient light bulbs, and showed us how to use them, what to do with them." Kempf thinks that the $5,000 could be used to buy more equipment and that students should learn how to monitor and control the use of electricity in their science classes.
As for the county's desire for a new school club, Kempf stated that the SGR is already sufficiently engaging Blair students' interests in energy usage and other environmental issues, making the creation of a new club unnecessary.
2003-2004 was Blair's first year to win the MCPS Green School award, but she believes that Blair can win again. "Once we meet a target, we will be motivated to meet that target again and again," she said.
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