Return to Headlines

CCSD will "lead the way" for energy conservation through new infrastructure, retrofitting project

The Cherry Creek School District formally launched an ambitious infrastructure and energy-saving initiative during a ceremony on April 19, a project that’s set to drastically cut carbon emissions and redirect millions of dollars back to the classroom.

District officials joined representatives from Johnson Controls on the Prairie Middle and Overland High School campus for a ribbon-cutting ceremony that signified a districtwide push to conserve energy, improve efficiency and connect students across CCSD with real-world, real-time learning connected to their world. The ceremony was a formal opportunity to celebrate CCSD’s newly established energy performance contract with Johnson Controls. This partnership will include $70 million worth of improvements and retrofit work across the district, projects that range from new LED lighting to improved water efficiency and refitted irrigation systems at facilities across Cherry Creek Schools’ 108 square miles. Estimates point to an eventual 25 percent reduction in emissions for the district.

“I’m looking forward to developing this partnership with Johnson Controls, and I’m thankful for CCSD leading the way, to serve as an example for other districts across the state and across the nation,” said CCSD Superintendent Christopher Smith, adding that the push to improve efficiency and conserve energy reflected the core values of the district: Growth Mindset, Equity, Whole Well-Being, Mental and Social-Emotional Health and Relationships. “This is positive and exciting for our students; they’re working in support of this, creating recycling programs and other measures to complement these steps. That’s the most important piece.”

Smith also credited Chief Financial and Operating Officer Scott Smith as the “ignition” of the work, as he pushed for the initiative and helped finalize the scope and details of the partnership.

“This was his initiative,” the superintendent said.

CCSD Superintendent Christopher Smith and other dignitaries at April 19 ceremony.Smith and other district administrators joined Johnson Controls officials, as well as state dignitaries and CCSD students to commemorate the ambitious project, which is set to save the district millions of dollars in the coming years. Colorado’s First Gentleman Marlon Reis was on hand to applaud the partnership and its wide-ranging impacts.

“You are leading the way and becoming a model for districts across the state,” Reis said. “Here in Colorado, we cherish our outdoors and our natural resources … It’s up to all of us to help protect them.

“I hope this project is not the last of its kind that we see,” he added.

Jenny Stentz, vice president and general manager at Johnson Controls, spoke to the value of the partnership for all parties involved, including the CCSD students who’ll have the chance to learn about conservations efforts with real-world data culled from the operation of their own school buildings.

“This project has been one of the most exciting that we’ve ever worked on,” Stentz said. “This school district has made a huge statement about conservation. Students can work with STEM kits to monitor temperature and energy use in their buildings. It allows for the entire community to get engaged, to physically see the impact of energy use.”

The work has already begun at schools like Prairie, where attendees saw firsthand an example of a new, LED lighting scheme in a classroom. Much of the work will be centered in older buildings in the district, since newer schools and facilities were built with these efficiencies already in place.

The improvements that will come as part of the energy performance contract are only one of many efforts in CCSD to increase the districts energy efficiency and become a more environmentally friendly organization. Other efforts include establishing a new districtwide Energy and Environmental Manager position; adding new recycle bins and receptacles in schools and offices across CCSD; refiguring bus routes to be more efficient; and looking at ways to reduce single-use plastic and waste in food systems.

“This is one leg of the stool when it comes to sustainability,” said CCSD Deputy Chief of Operations David Henderson. “It represents a win-win for the district. The savings we gain from these improvements will pay for the project over time.”

As a school district, CCSD is officially exempt from statewide government requirements regarding energy efficiency and waste, but these improvements put the district on track to meet all state energy standards five years before they’re required of private businesses.

“There is a lot of opportunity for this organization to be a good environmental steward and tie that in to learning. There’s a way to save money, do things more efficiently, benefit the environment and tie that back to educating our students,” Scott Smith said before the ceremony on April 19. “This is one of the largest contracts that has been done in K12 in Colorado. We’re definitely a leader when it comes to environmental stewardship.”

- Posted 4/20/22 at 12:50 PM