Unit 5 is seeing big savings through energy conservation inititatives since 2005. Meanwhile, school attendance hit record growth this year. (WJBC file photo)
By Zach Dietmeier
NORMAL - Saving can often be hard when experiencing a growth spurt. The Unit 5 school board is still focusing on both, however.
Unit 5 schools are growing at a record rate. Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Nate Cunningham says 361 new students for 2012 have raised the total number by 2.72%, which is a good problem.
"We report to the board every month about our section numbers, and we want to make sure thatwe have a very good classroom environment for each and every one of our students, and that's a challenge," said Cunningham. "We were trying to make sure we were prepared this year for growth, and that's why we started with our two new open attendance areas."
Meanwhile, the board is also looking to save while attendance booms. Since 2005, energy saving practices have cut costs by $7.6 million, or about $1 million a year.
Energy manager Bruce Boswell has been monitoring energy use since the initiative to conserve energy started.
"It's a matter of people helping by turning off lights, turning off computers, buying into the idea of wanting to use less energy - especially when children aren't there," said Boswell. "For the most part, people have done that now."
Boswell said energy saving as part of the culture has helped with the cuts. It's especially impressive considering Unit 5 is in the midst of a record growth year.
Cunningham says the buzz topic of redistricting has been on the minds of his committee while watching the student population increase.
"We will have that committee coming up in November, and we'll go through and talk about redistricting," said Cunningham. "It will focus a lot more on elementary than it is on high school, but the high school stuff is on our horizon."
Cunningham says while the talk comes with concerns of redistribution, it's a good problem to have in the long run while many rural areas are seeing their attendance shrink.
The benchmark point for heavy reorganization of Unit 5 is 2015. By then, Boswell says geothermal is the future of further energy conservation in Unit 5 schools...
"I think it becomes more of a possibility when we have systems that are old and need to be replaced. At that point in time, you need to make a decision which system will do best for the district and what best fits our needs," said Boswell.
Zach Dietmeier can be reached at Zach.Dietmeier@Cumulus.com.