(Nov. 17, 2011) New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman recently announced the creation of a nearly $450,000 grant program to help the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk Central School District improve energy efficiency and environmental conditions, as well as reduce operating costs. The program was created in partnership with the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).
Funding for the program was obtained by New York as a result of a multi-state settlement with LaFarge North America, Inc. and its subsidiaries, one of the nation's largest cement companies, over alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act related to emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. The company operates 13 cement plants nationwide, including a facility in the Village of Ravena.
"We are pleased that the Attorney General's Office and DEC are investing in the RCS School District. This substantial funding will provide the district with the resources to undertake school improvements that will increase our energy conservation, save us money and, best of all, enhance the educational environment we provide for our students," said Interim Superintendent of Schools Elisabeth Smith. "We are eager to work with all of the appropriate parties, including members of the community, to put these improvements in place as soon as possible."
Classroom environmental conditions in schools—such as lighting, heating, ventilation, and indoor environmental quality—are strongly linked to educational achievement, including student concentration, attendance, and test scores. Nonetheless, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, over 40 percent of America's public schools report at least one unsatisfactory environmental condition. Roughly 25 percent of public schools report unsatisfactory ventilation, while indoor air quality is reported to be unsatisfactory in about 20 percent of schools.
Moreover, a school's lighting, heating, ventilation and other mechanical systems consume substantial amounts of energy. In fact, according to the federal Energy Star program, our nation's school districts spend more on energy annually than they do on computers and textbooks combined. Energy Star estimates that as much as 30 percent of a typical district's total energy is used inefficiently or unnecessarily.
The New York State Education Department's High Performance Schools Guidelines (NY-CHPS) were developed in 2007 as a framework for school districts to implement measures in schools that enhance the educational environment and facilitate learning. High performance schools optimize resources over the life of the facility, are less expensive to operate than standard buildings, and help to ensure a clean and healthy learning environment for all occupants.
RCS has already identified improvement opportunities at the middle school and high school, having performed both an energy efficiency audit and a NY-CHPS audit at the schools. This work identified a number of potential projects for funding, including installing high-efficiency lighting, boilers and water heating systems, as well as upgrading building ventilation and air filtration systems.
“It’s great to have this money to continue our energy conservation efforts,” said RCS Board of Education President John Vadney. "Most importantly, this enables us to utilize funds for education. Educating our children is at the core of our mission.”
In coming weeks, RCS will be working closely with NYSERDA and DEC to discuss the next steps in the process.