JEFFERSON — The School District of Jefferson has just learned that all five of its school buildings have achieved Wisconsin Energy Star certification.

This signifies that these buildings — the high school, middle school, Sullivan Elementary School, West Elementary School and East Elementary School — are among the top performers in terms of energy efficiency compared to similar buildings nationwide.

The Energy Star certification compares products, homes, businesses and in this case, school buildings against their peers on energy efficiency measures.

The program is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy as a means of encouraging energy efficiency measures. To achieve this certificsanation, applicants must undergo a rigorous process of application and verification with a professional engineer.

Those achieving the Energy Star certification place within the top 25 percent compared to similar buildings across the U.S. Actually, Jefferson’s school buildings scored well above that mark, said Adam Gander, a mechanical engineer with Strand Associates, which handled the official verification process.

Energy Star uses a scoring system of 0-100 to place individual schools. All of the Jefferson district’s school buildings rank very high.

The high school, substantially remodeled and essentially rebuilt in 2012, achieved a score of 91, while the middle school, built in 1999, achieved a 92.

East Elementary School, the district’s oldest school, dating from 1938, earned a score of 91. West Elementary School, built in 1968, came in a little lower at 83, but still well above the cutoff, and Sullivan Elementary School, built in 1965, achieved a score of 99.

Gander shared the news and what it means to the district with the School District of Jefferson Board of Education Monday night during the board’s regular meeting.

To earn Energy Star certification, districts must enter their utility bill and energy data into a system that tracks energy usage over time. Districts also must provide detailed information on their buildings, fixtures, etc. A professional engineer then verifies the data in the information, assuring for example that school officials have not shut down the ventilation system to achieve higher scores.

After explaining the process, Gander shared some statistics about what this means for the Jefferson district.

All of the schools in the district saw their energy usage per square foot drop significantly over the last few years, he noted. That’s a 13-percent average year-over-year energy savings.

On average, School District of Jefferson buildings use 44-percent less energy than the national median.

In terms of emissions, the district’s energy efficiency efforts have resulted in carbon dioxide emissions going down annually for the past several years.

The emissions avoided are the equivalent of 2,195 passenger vehicles being taken off the road. That translates to a 14-percent average year-over-year emissions reduction.

Gander noted that this calculation takes into account not only emissions created locally (via a boiler, for example), but also the impact it has at the energy plant and so on.

Using less energy also means lower costs for the district and, thus, for district taxpayers.

Gander said that Jefferson’s efforts have resulted in a 10-percent average year-over-year cost savings, which has had a significant impact on what the district can do with its budget.

In summary, the Strand representative said that schools that are well-lit, well-ventilated and in good repair create healthy, comfortable learning and teaching environments.

Meanwhile, he said, reducing energy costs frees up additional funds for student activities and learning.

Finally, lowering energy uses means fewer greenhouse gas emissions and less problems for people, the country, and the environment down the road.

School board member Terri Wenkman said she was “absolutely blown away” by the efforts by recently retired buildings and grounds director Steve Hoeft and his team, the administrators and teachers at the various schools and even the students to make this happen.

“It was a team process,” she said.

Fellow board member Donna Bente said that she has seen many of these energy-efficiency projects come before the board, and they knew at the time it was the right thing to do. However, looking at the “stark numbers” really impressed her with the impact this effort has made.

Bente commended the hard work and commitment of everyone who helped make this happen.

Board President David Hollenberger added his special thanks to Hoeft for his vision and for the research he put into all of the little details.

“What a wonderful honor to earn the Energy Star for superior energy performance at the School District of Jefferson,” said Superintendent Mark Rollefson. “Saving energy is just one of the ways we show our community we care, and that we’re committed to doing our part to protect the environment and public health, both today and for future generations.

“Not only is this the right thing to do from an environmental and health perspective, but we have a continued responsibility to be good stewards of the dollars our community invests in our schools,” he said. “Our team found ways to save money and did so. This means more money spent directly on students.”

Maintenance projects

Later in the board meeting, the school board heard from Tim Graffin, new buildings and grounds director, with an update on district maintenance projects.

Graffin took over as full-time buildings and grounds director for the Jefferson schools at the start of the school year, having worked with Hoeft for the past several months.

In terms of grounds, Graffin said that his department has completed playground inspections at schools throughout the district.

The high school athletic field overseeding and fertilization project has been completed.

New trees have been ordered for the parking lot islands at Jefferson Middle School. The old trees had to be taken down due to disease, having been damaged by the Emerald Ash Borer. Rainy weather has delayed the planting efforts, however.

In terms of buildings, the district has investigated issues with the West Elementary School storm drain and has a proposed solution, which would move the water which has been pooling after major storms away from the school and toward the field near the middle school.

At the high school, a new frequency drive has been installed for the pool. In addition, the district completed the repair of a leak in a 10-inch pipe serving the pool.

The high school’s annual sprinkler inspection and testing has been completed.

At the high school and middle school, fire hydrant flushing and testing (of district-owned hydrants) has been completed.

The high school’s new Fab Lab laser engraver and exhaust system have been installed. Also at the high school, a series of painting projects were completed over the summer.

In addition, roof inspections have been completed throughout the district, Graffin said.

In terms of custodial staffing issues, the department is working on hiring and training new staff. The department recently moved a former five-hour employee at West to a 10-hour job and hired a new five-hour employee.

Fleet maintenance has continued on schedule, Graffin said.

Ongoing energy/utilities projects include continued LED light installation, a planned energy project for the pool which currently is in progress and a restroom hand dryer testing project, which also is in progress.

Recently, the district completed the installation of drain tile and topsoil for the junior varsity field.

Another major project under way is the replacement of a flat roof section at East Elementary School.

Playground updates at East and West schools are planned for the near future, Graffin said. He said he had talked with four different companies, but not all of the bids have come in for the projects yet. Some of the companies said they could get to work on the playground projects yet this fall and continue through December, while others said they’d have to start the projects in the spring.

Finally, the district recently completed a project to install new flooring at West Elementary in the stage area, to include a handicap-accessible ramp.

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