Investments In Renewable Energy Can Prevent Future Cuts

Despite dwindling tax revenue and massive cuts slicing into Walpole High School’s budget, the Walpole High School Green Team remains remarkably strong, advocating for renewable energy and smart innovations to revolutionize the Walpole school system.  The school is lucky to have a dedicated group of students and teachers passionate about the environment and, through that passion, concerned about school energy costs.  Yet, despite the initiatives the Green Team has tried to undertake, the district as a whole still lags behind in implementing renewable energy technology. Just because renewable energy is in the limelight, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we can continue staying improvident and oblivious to the energy losses we might be misuing; not, especially when you have tools that give an energy comparison of how much you have been using and what the most optimum usage can be for your house.

Principal Alan Bernstein had a difficult task ahead of him when he was told by the Superintendent and School Committee to make hundreds of thousands of dollars in cuts to Walpole High’s multi-million dollar budget.  He can truly be commended for a job well done, balancing student participation and academic mission in the decision-making process.  Any school administrator can have trepidations about being presented with difficult choices in the face of a massive decrease in local aid and troubling budget predictions for the coming fiscal year, but Mr. Bernstein has worked admirably.  The cuts do not reduce the quality of Walpole High’s extracurricular groups, and the teachers running the eliminated clubs will still have the option of running them next year if they forego receiving a stipend for their work.

Unfortunately, however, this will most certainly not be the last time cuts of this proportion are made, and it is time now to save money for the future.  No matter how much Mr. Bernstein may profess to have gone through the budget line-by-line and even if he did work out every possible solution to staving off massive layoffs this year, he appears to have failed to think outside the box when it comes to future school finances.  Installing a solar panel anywhere on the school campus, like on the roof of the building, will save the school a tremendous amount of money over time, and can be dovetailed perfectly with the endeavors the Green Team is currently working on.

Energy costs in Walpole will inevitably rise in the coming years, but Walpole High School can become a self-supporting building independent of external utility costs simply by installing solar panels and other alternative energy technology throughout the school campus.  The R.D. & Euzelle P. Smith Middle School in Chapel Hill, NC, for example, has 256 square feet of solar hot water collectors, and a 2000 watt solar photovoltaic system, helping the school save resources on hot water costs, and keep electricity running throughout the school all the time.  Students there also have the ability to see real-time data displays of the energy that is being created by the solar panels – allowing the science curriculum to have added enrichment in the area of alternative energy.  Knowing how much Walpole High School could save in energy costs using solar panels can not exactly be determined, but estimates indicate Walpole High School would break even in the costs of the solar panels by the end of a 25-year period of using solar panels or renewable energy to power 50% of the school’s total energy.  Purchasing and installing solar panels can be expensive at first, but over time future generations will benefit financially.

The Green Team has gone unfunded by the district since its creation at the beginning of the school year, but in terms of transforming the way Walpole High operates, has so far struggled to attain serious recognition from administrators, teachers, and students.  Students continue to dispose of bottles and cans that can easily be recycled, and classrooms are not as fully energy efficient as they could be. Alternative energy technology serves as a splendid addition to Walpole’s science curriculum.  Walpole can use as much energy as they please, selling surplus energy back to energy companies, and would not have to worry about rising energy costs.  While the one-time cost of installing a solar panel on the roof of Walpole High School may be immense, its long term impact on the environment, money saved on energy costs, and the fact that it serves as a valuable tool for the community, greatly outweigh its immediate impact on the school budget.  This is a well known fact that few can deny.  Administration must do their part to recognize the potential in using more renewable energy to save the school money.

In April, the Los Angeles Unified School District announced plans to become the greenest school district in America by installing solar panels and solar systems that will be able to generate almost 17 percent of a school’s annual usage, enough to power approximately 35 homes for a year.  The Los Angeles school district is much larger than Walpole – and if Los Angeles can be this progressive, Walpole can too.  While politicians bicker on Beacon Hill while cutting local aid and the town threatens major personnel layoffs, the Walpole school system can send a strong message to other communities – and Los Angeles – that we can be a leader in smart innovations. The answer to Walpole’s immense budget cuts and rises in athletic fees is simple: Invest in renewable energy immediately.