“In an era of COVID-19, children–and public education as we know it–are threatened without modern air quality technology and alternative, in-person learning environments,” stated Kevin Emenaker, executive director of administrative services for Alvord Unified School District (AUSD).
At 23 schools, Alvord Unified is on its way to becoming the only California school district of its size with an entirely up-to-date heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system districtwide. Alvord Unified has steadily been replacing and improving infrastructure at its schools since 2013 through several phases of an extensive, comprehensive modernization program. Now, the district is creatively using federal funding to modernize all HVAC equipment (over its useful life) along with solar and non-solar outdoor learning/lunch shelters, intelligent building controls and irrigation improvements making up a third and fourth round of improvements.
AUSD pursued its third phase bringing on new HVAC technology following reports from the U.S. Government of Accountability Office in June 2020 that 41% of districts representing about 36,000 schools nationwide needed to replace at least half of their HVAC systems. The district’s board of education also approved irrigation and field improvements to cultivate functional outdoor learning spaces. The improvements provide an added benefit of conserving water, another district goal. Prior to Governor Gavin Newsom’s declaration of a statewide drought emergency, the board recognized growing concern over water resources and the district’s responsibility to promote environmental stewardship.
“Improving air quality is essential to students and staff safely getting back in the classroom, but that’s not the only solution we’re working toward,” Emenaker added. “California has been battling restraints on water and electricity, which we’ve felt here in our region. As federal funding became available to address these very issues, we doubled down on our commitment to spend wisely in order to create safer, sustainable schools. This is an ongoing commitment requiring regular adaptation to the situations at hand.”
AUSD’s program, which the district is calling “Alvord Energy,” not only improves learning environments for students but also provides long-term fiscal stability by producing over $31.8 million in savings over the life of the new equipment.