• Bob Vlach, Woodford Sun Staff

Woodford schools celebrate Energy Star certifications


All seven schools in the Woodford County Public Schools district and its Central Office are now certified as Energy Star buildings. By making those buildings energy efficient and achieving Energy Star status, the district has been able to save more than $800,000 in energy usage costs over the last six years, which has been invested in the classroom so students have more access to technology and other school enrichment opportunities, schools Superintendent Scott Hawkins said. Northside Elementary, Southside Elementary, Safe Harbor Academy, Woodford County High School and Woodford County Middle School were recognized for being Energy Star Schools during a celebration at WCMS on Thursday, Oct. 20. "We're only the third school district in Kentucky that has every building - including our Central Office - to achieve the Energy Star rating," Hawkins told a gymnasium filled with students from across the district. "So you need to give yourselves a round of applause because this doesn't happen without our students being active participants in that process." The energy conservation initiatives that led to every school in the Woodford County district being certified as an Energy Star School began with Huntertown Elementary earning the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star award in February 2010.

A grant award from the Kentucky School Boards Association (KSBA) allowed Woodford County schools to hire a part-time energy manager, which Hawkins said gave the district's "energy-conservation movement" momentum. And in November 2014, Simmons Elementary was certified as an Energy Star School - the second school in the district recognized for its energy efficiency. "We were all-in from the very beginning because . we were able to save resources and we were able to do the right thing," said Ambrose Wilson IV, chair of the Woodford County Board of Education. The school district's energy manager, Ralph Slone, and his predecessor, Jim McClanahan, have spearheaded efforts to institute systems and processes that result in energy savings, Hawkins said. For example, the district scaled back air conditioning units and powered-down computers across the district during fall break. "Little things like that add up," Hawkins said. WCHS graduates James Kay, who represents Woodford County in the Kentucky House of Representatives; Shelby Williams, constituent services representative for U. S. Congressman Andy Barr; and Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott attended last week's Energy Star celebration at Woodford County Middle School. WCMS choir and orchestra students began the celebration with performances of "The National Anthem" and "My Old Kentucky Home," which concluded with Lee Colton, of the state Energy Environment Cabinet, presenting Energy Star awards to principals, teachers and a student representing their schools. The EPA's Energy Star certification means a school has performed in the top-25 percent of similar facilities across the country in terms of energy efficiency. "It takes each and every one of you to reach this kind of accomplishment," said Ron Wilhite, director of the state School Energy Managers Project for KSBA. He said schools in Woodford County have been able to save 30 percent in energy costs since 2010. "I'd like for us to lead the way in energy conservation," said Sloan during an interview after last Thursday's celebration at WCMS. Bus garages are not eligible for Energy Star status, but Woodford County's bus garage led the district in terms of reducing energy consumption for five consecutive months, "so they're onboard with this," said Slone. Overall, Wilhite said Kentucky ranks fifth nationally in terms of how many public schools have achieved Energy Star status when compared to other states in the country.

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