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Stewardship in the Arlington School District | GUEST OPINION
Stewardship: Merriam-Webster’s definition is “the conducting, supervising, or managing of something; especially: the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.”
When the Arlington School Board adopted a new Strategic Plan in 2010, they focused our district’s Mission and Vision on four core responsibilities: Student Achievement, Safe and Caring Environment, Stewardship and Continuous Improvement.
My role requires stewardship for the operations of nine school campuses and three support facilities. These facilities must serve the needs of our instructional programs while at the same time operating with the utmost efficiency.
Energy conservation has been a stewardship focus in our district for many years and that pays dividends today. Energy conservation goes beyond looking at how to live within our means; it challenges us to do the same with less. Old fashioned hard work and new technologies have enabled us to reduce our energy consumption.
Lighting: Since 2001, we have been upgrading our lighting by installing more efficient fixtures, ballasts and bulbs, using grants from Snohomish County PUD. These PUD grants cover the cost of new fixtures, with the district supplying the installation labor. The current estimated annual savings (over traditional fixtures) from these upgrades is 765,000 kilowatt-hours, or enough electricity to power 58 Washington homes and saves the district approximately $50,000 each year. Our estimated cumulative savings since 2001 is $275,000. These lighting improvements are most noticeable in our gymnasiums where all fixtures have been replaced with high efficiency fluorescent lights.
HVAC: Heating, ventilating and cooling our buildings is our single largest utility cost. Our two HVAC technicians use energy management systems to carefully monitor and adjust our HVAC systems to ensure efficiency. When boilers and water heaters need to be replaced, we evaluate both the energy efficiency of the replacement and size of the equipment based on our current program needs. A recent benchmarking study of our schools, provided at no cost by the McKinstry Corporation, found that we were among the most energy efficient schools in our region.
School Bus Routing: Each year we review our school bus routing to ensure that our routes stay efficient. Efficient routes minimize the distances traveled each day while maintaining an appropriate number of students assigned to each bus. Efficient routing results in reduced fuel consumption. With our price for diesel fuel having risen by 65 percent in the past five years, reducing our consumption helps our bottom line.
Maintenance of our schools is focused on the needs of our instructional programs, the safety of our students and preserving district assets. Priorities include repairing roofs, maintaining fire detection systems, exterior painting, resolving water intrusion issues, inspecting and maintaining playground equipment, and repairing damaged walkways. Three full-time and one part-time employee maintain 700,000 square feet of facilities.
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle
Another important aspect of stewardship is being conscientious of our waste streams. All of our facilities recycle paper, cardboard, fluorescent light bulbs and electronic components. Bottle and can recycling is provided at six of our facilities and is expanding each year. Presidents Elementary School, which houses our central kitchen, collects food waste for composting. With the assistance of the city of Arlington, we are currently evaluating expanding composting to additional schools.
To further reduce our refuse costs, the district owns and operates a garbage truck to haul our own refuse to the local transfer station. Hauling our own garbage saves money and allows us better monitoring of our refuse.
Three groundskeepers mow and maintain 180 acres of school grounds, athletic fields, planted beds and wetlands. Maintaining our grounds with minimal resources is one of our biggest stewardship challenges. With a focus on supporting our instructional and athletic programs, our priorities are maintaining and improving athletic fields and play grounds. Our struggle is keeping our lawns, beds and curbs weed free and looking sharp.
The staff of Arlington Public Schools takes our stewardship responsibilities very seriously and we are constantly looking for additional ways that we can improve our operations. These operational efficiencies help our financial bottom line and enable us to direct more of our resources to our students.
Sid Logan is the Executive Director of Operations for Arlington Public Schools and can be reached at 360-618-6238.