Today’s Headline News reported Illinois school districts were considering a four-day school week. This was a move, in part, to save money for some starving school budgets. But, it was also stated that there would be a side benefit to one less day for school children: Energy savings.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy (U.S. DOE) and their EnergySmart program, schools spend more of their budget on energy costs than any other expense besides personnel. They estimate that the average school district spends $175 per student on energy costs per year. By being more energy-efficient, a school can cut its costs by as much as 30%. Can cutting one day a week serve that purpose, or present more problems?
The U.S. DOE will tell you that energy is one of the few expenses a school can reduce without sacrificing educational quality. The sad thing is, most school officials don’t realize that. Making energy-efficient choices in lighting, heating, and water usage can go a long way.
More to the point, schools that are energy efficient can use that to their advantage as a teaching tool. What better way to build future environmentalists than to start their learning process in an environmentally friendly school?
But if that learning process is shortened because there is one less day in the week, how much of a benefit is it long term? Educators and parents alike are concerned about the impact this will have on students.
In an article dated March 8th from The Wall Street Journal, there are 100 districts in 17 states, mostly out West and in rural areas, that currently use a four-day school week. These schools have seen a savings having cut that extra day. But is that cut worth it?
"There's no way a switch like that wouldn't negatively affect teaching and learning," Tim Callahan, spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, was quoted as saying. School districts in Georgia are considering the switch and his organization is discouraging schools in the state from exploring four-day weeks.
Maybe schools that are budget-hungry need to take a different outlook on where their savings can come from. Why curtail a day in school when you can save your budget by making a few choices in operating costs?
The Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) provides tips for schools looking to save money on energy use. Lighting alone can make a significant difference in overall energy consumption. They advise installing CFL light bulbs and using dimmers or motion and occupancy sensors so lights are turned off when not in use. Turning off computer monitors also saves electricity.
Water conserving fixtures for sinks and toilets save on water usage by millions of gallons every year. Fixing leaky windows, cracks in the foundation, and better insulation—all things that affect homeowners as well—go a long way in overall energy consumption and cost. And turn that thermostat down! As my father always used to say: You’re cold? That’s what sweaters are for.
With just a few changes and a little effort, schools can make a sizeable dent in the cost of running their buildings. No need to cut costs by affecting our children's education. Having a green perspective might be all the change schools need.
Image courtesy of GreenBuildingLawUpdate.com.