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Articles: Planning

Lady Bird Johnson Middle School opening in the Irving (Texas) Independent School District this August is named after the Texas native and former First Lady, who died in 2007. The 152,000- square-foot school is designed to be a net-zero school, which means it will produce as much energy as it consumes. In fact, it will be the largest net-zero middle school in the nation. Irving ISD is located in a suburb of Dallas and has 34,000 students and 37 educational facilities.

The Gloria Marshall Elementary School

The new Gloria Marshall Elementary School, opening this fall to 730 pre-K5 students in the Spring (Texas) Independent School District, will sport an aquatic pond for students to study its ecosystem, a butterfly garden, an above-ground cistern to collect rainwater, and a wind turbine. Inside will be a computer in the school lobby allowing students to view the amount of energy the roof's solar panels are harnessing. It will be one of the greenest schools in Texas and the first in Houston to use geothermal heating and cooling.

Three of nine school buildings that have won the latest Educational Facility Design Awards from the American Institute of Architects' Committee on Architecture for Education stand out from the crowd of other school buildings because they are sustainable and are connected to the nature that surrounds them. The awards program is designed to identify trends and emerging ideas, honor excellence in planning and design, and disseminate knowledge about best practices in educational and community facilities, according to the AIA.

When we hear about school shootings, we typically think of them occurring in schools—not at school board meetings. But that was not the case on Dec. 14, when 56-year-old Clay Duke fired multiple shots at Superintendent Bill Husfelt and board members during an afternoon meeting of the Bay County (Fla.) School District in Panama City.

When President Obama first signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, he took much criticism for spending more money—$787 billion more—when the nation was reeling from decades-old debt, a more than 9 percent unemployment rate and a mortgage crisis. But this measure has allowed public school district leaders to invest in cost-effective, energy-efficient facilities projects faster than they would have if they didn't have the federal funds.

Anyone who doubts that adjusting thermostats or turning off computers can make much of a dent in utility bills should have a chat with administrators of the Council Rock School District in Bucks County, Pa. In the past four years, thanks to comprehensive policies and procedures, CRSD has cut energy usage by nearly 50 percent and achieved more than $9 million in total savings. The 12,000- student district has been honored for its practices with federal EPA-sponsored Energy Star awards three years in a row.

In a first-of-its-kind move, three school districts in Illinois have bonded together to be in the business of wind power. Their joint project not only could benefit the environment but could save millions of dollars.

To date, empirical research of the participation of school district central offices in school improvement efforts has primarily highlighted how central office staff, despite their best efforts, often fail to foster teaching and learning improvement. As a result, central office leaders are left with a heap of examples of what not to do, but few guides for what should be done.

Two New Hampshire school systems, the Pembroke School District and Winnisquam Regional School District (WRS D), are reducing their carbon dioxide emissions by transitioning to biomass- fueled plants to heat their two largest facilities. Partnering with Honeywell, a private energy technology manufacturer, the districts will save an estimated $3.7 million combined over the next 15 years by switching to plants that burn wood chips. The Pembroke District completed its first phase in 2008, and WRS D expects its plant to be completed by fall.

For many schools, “Going Green” once meant turning out the lights after leaving the classroom, filling the recycle bins, and celebrating Earth Day. Not anymore. Although such activities remain staples of environmentally conscious school systems, that consciousness has exploded in an era of high energy prices, global warming threats, and multiplying concerns about the health of students in today’s school buildings.

 

When school administrators hear that the 10th anniversary of the Columbine High School attack will arrive on April 20, 2009, most shake their heads in disbelief. They are amazed that 10 years have passed since this watershed event, which changed the landscape of K12 school safety.

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