District receives $100K for ‘energy champions’

Photo by Joe Ungaro
The Irvington Public School District is looking to improve the HVAC systems at all of its schools including, Irvington High School.

IRVINGTON, NJ — The Irvington Public School District has received a $100,000 grant from the federal government to train and support energy managers, who will lead air quality projects and identify funding for improvements with a particular eye twoards improving the HVAC system in district buildings.

“Energy improvements for schools create healthier learning environments for our children and can help them reach their full potential in the classroom,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “This Training Network is a terrific example 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.”

The money comes from the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the $4.5 million Energy Champions Leading the Advancement of Sustainable Schools Prize, a competitive award promoting energy management in school districts across America.

Irvington and 24 other local education agencies will each receive $100,000 to establish, train, and support energy managers in their schools.

These “energy champions” are then expected to develop projects and skills to lower energy costs, improve indoor air quality, and enhance learning environments in their communities, according to a press release from the federal government.

In its application for the grant, Irvington said the HVAC systems in all of its schools are in critical need of repair with an estimated cost of $30 million. The system needs to obtain funding to provide energy management and resource training for staff, who will lead air quality projects and identify funding to implement projects.

The district hopes to eventually address the HVAC upgrades to the following schools:
Berkeley Terrace School; Chancellor Avenue School; University Elementary School; Mount Vernon School; University Middle School; Union Avenue School; Irvington High School; Thurgood Marshall School; Madison Avenue School; and Grove Street School.

In tandem with these awards, DOE is facilitating the creation of a Training Network to provide skills development and coaching for “energy champions.” By participating in this training network, energy champions will build proficiencies to identify, plan, and implement infrastructure upgrades, developing institutional capacity to make long-term energy management — and therefore long-term savings, carbon reductions, and health gains — a lasting feature of their communities.

The proposed team and energy champions who will participate in Irvington are: Celeste Banks, director of government programs, retention, and recruitment; Roger Monel, associate business administrator; Zorana Figueroa, supervisor of buildings and grounds; and Reginald Lamptey, assistant superintendent of business/board secretary.

Phase 1 winners, including Irvington, will move on to Phase 2 of the Prize, taking part in up to 160 hours of coaching, coursework, and skills development through the Energy CLASS Prize Training Network.

Banks said the district was excited about receiving the grant and that it would help in the planning of critical upgrades to the district’s facilities.

“This is especially important for us since we have numerous facilities upgrades happening, and the training will help us to sustain those renovations for years to come,” Banks said. “Likewise, this grant is supplemental to the Renew America’s School Grant, for which we also applied. If awarded that grant, we will receive additional funding for clean energy upgrades for our facilities. We will know about that grant by the end of the summer.”

Teams of energy champions will receive one-on-one support from professionals and experts in the field to pursue energy upgrade projects prioritized by their LEAs.

At the end of phase two, participants will submit a progress report on actions identified or taken, along with a plan for future building upgrades.

Teams that demonstrate their dedication to financing and managing projects, establishing effective plans for long-term operations and maintenance, measuring and verifying impact, and championing their work publicly, will be eligible to receive an additional $50,000 cash prize.