“We don’t have a lot of extra funding for extracurricular courses.”
“Education doesn’t have a lot of funding … there’s not a lot of excess money out there to spend on innovative ideas.”
Sound familiar? These statements could be uttered in nearly every school district in the country.
In this case, those words came from administrators at Blount County Schools, a district about one-hour northeast of Birmingham, Alabama. They had ambitious goals: to transform every school in their district, creating an environment that promoted collaboration and engagement in safe, bright and healthy classrooms.
However, the district was burdened with ever-increasing utility and maintenance bills to run 20 aging facilities.
Modernization projects such as these create a unique opportunity to think beyond traditional building upgrades in support of a long-term vision that also works to enhance the student learning environment and educational experiences.
By tapping into $14.6 million in energy and operational savings, Blount County Schools was not only able to upgrade its facilities, but it also created an enhanced STEM learning experience for students. The district’s steps to success aren’t a secret. They’re replicable across all school districts—large and small—in four steps:
Step One: Find the (energy) leaks
Blount County School District had ambitious goals to attain and would need to implement a variety of energy-saving renovations across its 20 facilities. With the help of Schneider Electric, the district found key areas for improvements to build those savings:
This district-wide renovation significantly impacts both employee time and budget costs needed to support day-to-day operations. The county’s schools are spread over 651-square-miles, which created a burden on the district’s ability to efficiently manage maintenance issues. Today, they have the capability to control all energy use and building functionality from one central hub, greatly improving overall operations.
Step Two: Tap your experts
Schneider Electric engaged its network of STEM organizations, educators, and thought leaders to help bring instant programming to the schools.
Without needing to wait for the renovation to be completed, the district was able to implement nationally recognized STEMscopes™ curriculum in grades 2, 3, and 4 in one school, as well as a new, state-of-the-art STEAM Lab that serves grades 5 through 8. Students are able experience hands-on learning through lessons in robotics, 3D printing, coding and more. Teachers were not only given lesson plans and tools, but will also be certified to teach this new curriculum. This certification can even be counted as credits towards teachers’ graduate school programs.
Step Three: Choose your (scientific) adventure
Beyond the STEM curriculum program, Schneider Electric can also deliver educational shadowing opportunities with onsite engineers to show students the upgrades in their schools and how they help advance sustainability and energy efficiency.
Special events can also be coordinated for Energy Awareness Month, Earth Day and other landmark celebrations to showcase how STEM professions help create better schools and healthier communities. For year-round programming, Schneider Electric’s Conserve My Planet behavioral modification program works to motivate students, teachers and staff to take an active role in their school’s sustainability initiative. Learn more about Schneider Electric’s student engagement programs here.
Step Four: Celebrate your success
Blount County Schools went from sinking money into utility bills to being able to reinvest in educational innovations that once seemed unattainable. Their success extends past the classroom and bottom line, as the district has shown their community and other districts the value of a combined efficiency and education program. Through this project, the county is helping to plan for the future of the district, creating opportunities for growth, development and savings as their technological and facility requirements evolve over time. The district was also able to launch a new brand, “Build. Create. Succeed.” and the impact of the project has been celebrated by citizens across local media and social platforms.
Watch and share Blount County’s transformation:
Click here to learn how Schneider Electric leverages savings to help K-12 school districts create 21st century learning environments.