Proposition 39

A Teacher’s Take on Sustainability Curriculum and Summer Shutdown

By Terri Meyer

To paraphrase an old axiom, you can take the teacher out of the classroom, but they won’t be able to resist the urge to educate. So as a former high school science teacher: please take out a pencil and some paper. Hint, hint … there will be a quiz.

When it comes to working toward a sustainable future for California, there is no better place to start than with the people who are California’s future: our schoolchildren. Including energy conservation as a part of the state’s education system curriculum and practicing these ideas at school are powerful ways to instill a greener mindset that will influence future practices long after they graduate and enter the workforce.

In my role as a Small and Medium Business Customer Relationship Manager for Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), it is my privilege to assist schools with implementing educational programs and identifying clean energy projects that will greatly benefit California communities for years to come. Proposition 39 provides $15,000 to over $100,000 annually to every public school district (including charter schools) in California that implements energy efficiency measures and adds clean energy in schools.1

As a former teacher and district energy manager, I still feel a responsibility to lend as much advice as I can to help schools positively impact their budgets and stretch Proposition 39 funds as far as they can. Now that the end of the school year is fast approaching and the temperatures are rising, it’s an especially good time for administrators and teachers to consider energy conservation ideas.

Seasonal adjustments
For example, have you adjusted the school’s outside lighting timers now that daylight saving time is here to take advantage of spring’s arrival? It’s also a good time to take advantage of the milder temperatures by changing the settings on the building’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. Set the system to turn on a half hour before classes begin and turn off five minutes before the bell rings to avoid demand charges when those doors open at the end of the day. It’s peak pricing time!

As schools finalize summer planning, officials should also consider the following ideas:2

  • End programs by noon if possible to limit cooling during peak pricing hours from noon to 6 p.m., May 1 to October 31.
  • Unplug all electronics including computers and peripheral devices, prop open refrigerators, remove animals and plants, and, if possible, have all staff turn in their keys as part of summer checkout.
  • Flip the disconnect lever on heat pumps in modular classrooms so that rooms are not being conditioned this summer by accident. Leave one for on-site maintenance staff to cool off in.
  • In school kitchens, combine all leftover foods into the walk-in refrigerator for the summer. Prop open reach-ins and unplug all other appliances as they might have a phantom draw. Especially if they have any display lights.
  • Summer programs should be centrally scheduled in one wing of the campus to limit the amount of lighting and conditioning required. If you have a campus chiller system or your HVAC system controls multiple zones, consider using modular classrooms so you can control the amount of space being cooled.
  • Consider having year-round staff start early and end their day by 2 p.m. to avoid a few hours of space cooling during peak hours or consider closing on Fridays for the summer. If you are on a demand response program this will be especially important.
  • Make sure to only light and cool spaces when they are occupied. Occupancy sensors and timer switches can reduce energy consumption in infrequently used areas like auditoriums and break rooms.

OK, remember what I said about a quiz? You’ve been so attentive, so how about an easy homework assignment instead? Contact the school’s information hotline if you haven’t been in touch with your local rep ( learn more about ways to be more energy efficient and earn rebates from PG&E, download the free eBook, "20 Sustainable Products to Help Businesses Save Money and Energy."

  1. Pacific Gas and Electric Company
  2. Pacific Gas and Electric Company

A former science teacher gives a lesson on clean energy solutions for California schools.
  • SMB Blog Author
    Terri Meyer
    Proposition 39 specialist for Pacific Gas and Electric Company. As a former high school science teacher, administrator and energy manager, Terri can uniquely understand the needs of California's schools. She is proud to be a part of the PG&E family and assist schools by redirecting funds into educational programs that will greatly benefit California communities for years to come.

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