Jackson School District Saves Money by Saving Energy

John Blair, an energy education specialist for the district, gives a presentation during a Board of Education meeting. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

JACKSON – The township school district has been saving energy and it is looking to save even more in the months to come noting the economic benefits of doing so and being environmentally responsible.

School board members listened to an energy conservation program update presented by John Blair, an energy education specialist for the district, during a recent board meeting.

“We want to save money and reduce our carbon footprint. We can’t control the price of gas or electricity but we want to change our behavior and control what happens when school is not in session,” Blair said during the presentation.

Board members were pleased to hear that all 10 schools in the district have met the rigorous requirements involved in achieving a Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification.

Blair noted that district’s buildings were among 91 schools that achieved such certification in New Jersey during 2017. A total of 694 schools and 279 school districts participated in the program overall.

Sustainable Jersey for Schools, a program for kindergarten through 12th grade public schools in New Jersey, is voluntary. Each school that is certified at the bronze level must submit documentation to show it has completed a balanced portfolio of the program’s sustainability actions, attaining a minimum of 150 points.

Silver-level certification requires a minimum of 350 points of sustainability actions. Over 2,700 sustainability actions were completed by schools and districts participating in the program including energy audits, boosting recycling efforts to integrating sustainability into student learning and promoting student and staff wellness.

“The fact that all 10 of our schools earned this distinction is a testament to the strong commitment we have to energy conservation and education,” said Superintendent Dr. Stephen Genco.

Blair said that participation in the Sustainable Jersey Energy program has allowed the district to apply for grants. “It is not easy to get certified. There are only 14 school buildings certified in Ocean County and 10 are here in Jackson. I believe there are two in Brick.”

Genco said that “our facilities department, our energy education specialist and all our staff and students should be proud of the ways we are saving money and being environmentally responsible.”

Blair, who said he was planning to speak to Jackson Liberty High School’s environmental club about energy savings, said, “We track all our utility bills. We look at the kilowatt hour consumption. We are not perfect and we noticed a spike in July when the Fine Arts Auditorium was found to have had its air conditioning on after hours. The computer turned on the air conditioning thinking people were inside. We quickly acted and corrected that problem.”

“As a board, we are proud to approve and support this program, which focuses not only on energy audits and savings, but also on integrating sustainability into student learning, Board Vice President Vicki Grasso said. “It’s not enough to focus on the ways we can save money – we are proud to be equally committed to educating our students on how they can live in a way that is environmentally responsible.”

Randall Solomn, executive director of Sustainable Jersey, said in a release that districts who earned the distinction of having Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification should be proud that their hard work was paying off.

“Becoming certified is a significant achievement for schools and their school district,” Solomon said. “The number of schools participating in the program is truly remarkable.”

Blair said the Crawford Rodriguez Elementary School saved $20,000 and that the district realizes savings in a variety of ways including catching mistakes like the one caught at Fine Arts Auditorium. He said the district is expected to save more than $50,000 during the current fiscal year through various energy saving protocols.

Business Administrator Michelle Richardson said that the district was proactive in how it purchased its electric from specific vendors adjusting quickly to market changes.

“You don’t wait until your contract is over. This is a good process for us,” Richardson said.

“We go through the entire district with a fine tooth comb right down to counting every single light bulb,” Blair said.

“We are proud of the leadership provided by the boards of education and their superintendents, as well as the contributions of principals, teachers, education support professionals and parents, that made this important milestone reality,” Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, New Jersey School Boards Association executive director said in a release.