Albemarle County Public Schools are now a member of a select group of 25 school systems across the country to win $100,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy. Officials hope the "Energy CLASS Prize" money will help to lower carbon emissions and energy costs.
Speaking on the announcement, U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm emphasized how the funds can help students across the country.
“Energy improvements for schools create healthier learning environments for our children and can help them reach their full potential in the classroom,” Granholm said in a statement.
Albemarle schools said it will use the funds to enact a two-phase plan.
In the first phase, which begins July 1, the grant money will “assist school division energy managers to identify, plan and carry out energy efficiency and health upgrades in schools,” according to a statement released by the school division on Wednesday.
In practice, Albemarle school officials said there will be new training sessions for school staff with the Energy Department and industry experts later this summer. The plan will also offer new internships to high school students.
“Today’s students are obviously going to be instrumental in enabling our nation to achieve its net-zero emissions goal in future years,” John Coles, the division’s environmental program manager, said in the statement. “We anticipate there will be strong interest from our students.”
In order for the first phase to be successful, the division would have to demonstrate a “dedication to financing and managing projects, establishing effective plans for long-term operations and maintenance, measuring and verifying impact, and championing their work publicly,” according to the Department of Energy.
Then, the second phase of the plan would focus on “how school divisions can plan, execute and maintain improvement projects prioritized by their schools,” according to Albemarle County Public Schools. Based on the division’s performance in implementing the second phase, the division could be eligible for an additional $50,000 in funds, which would extend to May 2024.
The director of building services for the division, Lindsay Snoddy, highlighted how she believes the grant is going to help save the division money during a time of surging student enrollment.
“Finding ways to accelerate our conservation of energy without the need for major capital budget investments frees up more resources for supporting students,” Snoddy said in the school division’s statement.
The grant funds are part of the Biden administration’s larger goal of achieving net-zero emissions for the nation no later than 2050.
“This Training Network is a terrific example of how President Biden’s Investing in America is working to support communities around the country by providing training to our nation’s schools that will allow them to cut costs and carbon pollution,” Granholm said.