JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – With Earth Day just around the corner, Duval County Public Schools are way ahead of the curve. As of last year, Duval schools were ranked high for lowest energy costs employing sustainability efforts such as high-efficiency lighting, better climate control and water cost-reduction measures at both school and district levels. Duval County Public Schools (DCPS) has continually made substantial strides at lowering energy costs, which allows for more funding to be directed toward the classroom to support teachers and students. DCPS has been the second-lowest cost school district per student – also known as Capital Outlay Full Time Equivalent or COFTE – out of Florida’s 67 districts; an improvement from being the third lowest in 2014. Additionally, despite having a number of buildings with an average age of over 40 years, the district’s energy cost of $151.42 per student is the lowest of Florida’s Big 7 large urban school districts by nearly $40. The lower energy costs allowed DCPS to reduce the entire district’s annual utility expenses from $26.5 million to $20 million as of last year.
Energy costs per square foot also indicate the considerable strides the district has made in creating a more efficient energy strategy. DCPS’ all-energy costs per square foot is $0.94, tying the district for seventh-lowest overall in the state. That is in contrast to in 2014 when the district was ranked in the lower 30 percent of all-energy costs per square foot. Out of the state’s 67 districts, only 12 have all-energy costs under $1 per square foot.
“The more we save in energy costs, the more funding we can allocate to the classroom, which makes the nearly $6 million in savings significant,” said Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti. “This is a complete win-win. Developing more ways to be energy efficient allows the district to reduce its carbon footprint and contribute to a more sustainable and greener environment for future generations.”
On the district level, work toward energy and water conservation projects has included lighting retrofit projects to convert existing T-12 fluorescent light fixtures to energy-saving T-8 fixtures in all schools; HVAC equipment replacements; Energy Monitoring Control Systems (EMCS)/Occupancy Sensor Installations; and water meter reductions and water well and irrigation improvements.
“We have achieved energy savings, despite having older buildings and doubling the number of computers used within the district over the last two years,” Paul Soares, Assistant Superintendent of Operations said last year. “By utilizing proven methods, we have produced effective results, especially when replacing much older systems that typically exist in older buildings.”
Similar sustainability programs have taken place at the school level. They include installing high-efficiency lighting and HVAC systems, as well as occupancy sensors to save energy; creating recycling zones at every school to reduce landfill waste; building school vegetable gardens; improving school irrigation systems to use less water and employing rain barrels for irrigation; and creating green teams and Green Champions at schools. The award-winning Green Champions program has become a hallmark of the district’s environmental initiatives as each of the district’s 197 schools actively promotes and partakes in more environmental-friendly activities and actions.
About Duval County Public Schools
Duval County Public Schools is the 20th largest school district in the nation, educating more than 128,000 students in over 190 schools. Its mission is to provide educational excellence for every school, in every classroom, for every student, every day. Visit www.duvalschools.org to learn more.
We'll keep you posted on this year's Earth Day update.