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Transformations at Madison County Schools Win Green Ribbon

Legacy Elementary in Alabama’s Madison County is a proud recipient of the U.S. Department of Education’s 2018 Green Ribbon Schools Sustainability Award. Legacy is one of only 48 recipients of the 2018 award.

Legacy’s award-winning stature is due in part to its dedication to energy efficiency. Also contributing to the prestigious award is Legacy’s commitment to engaging students in STEM curriculum.

But things haven’t always been so green for Legacy. This award is all the more impactful because of the district-wide transformation it signifies.

From Bond Limit to National Prestige

When they first started working with Schneider Electric, the district was stuck in an all-too-common cycle of deferred maintenance and depleted funding options. The district was even at its bond limit.

But the administration stood tall in the face of these hurdles; they acted with resolve and found a solution.

Madison County Schools’ leadership decided to partner with Schneider Electric on an energy savings plan to reduce energy consumption by 40 percent. This unlocked millions of dollars in energy savings that have been reinvested to overcome maintenance backlogs and transform the district.

Little did district leaders realize that just a few years later the same energy savings program would contribute to the district winning one of the most prestigious sustainability awards in the nation.

“The savings from our energy improvement program with Schneider Electric has already helped bring our classrooms up to 21st-Century standards,” says Matthew Massey, the district’s superintendent.

“To now be honored with this national award just confirms that we’re providing our students with the skills and knowledge they need to compete in the world of tomorrow.”

The district is enabling students to “compete in the world of tomorrow” through innovative STEM initiatives such as its Project Pond — one of the largest outdoor classrooms in the state of Alabama. Project Pond provides a hands-on environment to help students learn about and explore the habitats of animals that make their homes at the pond while also learning how to maintain the pond’s natural environment.

Legacy’s innovative partnership with the American Wildlife Foundation (AWF) led to the creation of this unique outdoor environmental education space and program. It is a critical component of Legacy’s Green Ribbon Award, but it alone may not have been enough.

Schneider Electric’s Role in Legacy Elementary’s Green Ribbon Award

The Green Ribbon Award requires three criteria be achieved to be considered for recognition.

These include:

  1. Reduce environmental impact and costs
  2. Improve the health and wellness of students and staff
  3. Provide effective environmental and sustainability education, incorporating STEM, civic skills, and green career pathways

The school-run partnership with the AWF and the Project Pond initiative was certainly a crown jewel attaining many of the district’s ambitions around STEM, civics and a greener Huntsville.

As for the other two criteria, Legacy’s Principal Trawick turned to Schneider Electric.

Schneider Electric is proud to help drive sustained energy savings through its Performance Assurance Support Services (PASS). The PASS team works as an extension of the school’s operations team, adding engineering expertise and hands-on project knowledge.

The PASS team working with Madison County has been integral to the school achieving its energy savings goals — a whopping $1.5 million per year.

It was this same team that Principal Trawick tasked to deliver complex environmental impact calculations needed for the first pillar of the Green Ribbon application.

The application involved complex calculations for energy savings, greenhouse gas emission reductions, water quality, efficiency and conservation improvements. PASS team member, Cory Lymer, stepped in and worked with Legacy’s maintenance department to generate the numbers and present them in a clear set of charts and graphs.

Lymer showed that the school’s energy conservation steps had reduced its annual electricity usage from around 15 million kWh to just 900,000 kWh. Similar energy saving measures reduced greenhouse gas emissions by more than 15,000 tons of CO2 — the equivalent of planting 431 acres of trees, or removing 317 cars from the road.

“I know the judges were impressed with that level of detailed information,” says principal Trawick. “And we couldn’t have gotten it without the help of Cory Lymer and his PASS team.”

But the PASS team and the school’s overall partnership with Schneider Electric had more to do with the award than just providing energy savings data.

“Without the PASS team, I don’t think we’d have been able to achieve the kind of savings we have — and accomplish the things we have,” says Karen O’Bannon, chief school financial officer. “They really have gone above and beyond to maximize our savings.”

Helping a Booming District Realize its Vision

Madison County is a sprawling district with nearly 20,000 K-12 students in 27 schools spread across 30 campuses — so having the extra support of a PASS team has meant the difference between realizing those savings and having to make up lost ground.

That was especially true given the Madison County project was one of the largest-ever K-12 energy and infrastructure improvement projects in the state of Alabama.

Learn How to Realize Your Vision

Hear Madison County describe the transformational story that got them from debt limit to national recognition. This conversation includes 30-40 minutes of presentation as well as informative questions about funding and other facilities improvements.

Watch it now: