One of Culver City Unified School's District's brightest ideas will begin to shine on Tuesday, when the switch is flipped on the new photovoltaic panels at Farragut Elementary School.
The District's new solar power system, which includes similar installations at Culver City Middle School and Culver City High, will provide as much as 750kW of energy. The system will officially be turned on in a special ceremony beginning at 9 a.m. on February 4 and will feature elected officials, students and members of the District's Environmental Sustainability Committee.
When combined with solar incentives from the state, the system, which has a performance guarantee, will result in a projected $400,000 per year for the District's general fund. It will create an environmental benefit equal to planting 4,956 trees every year and marks the District's largest investment in alternative energy.
"This is really a watershed moment for CCUSD," said Superintendent Dave LaRose. "Not only are we making our campuses greener and saving money that can be used for a variety of educational initiatives, but we are also creating a living, breathing classroom that will help teach our students about alternative energy."
For Siena Szeto and Ella Brindle, the $3.8-million project is an opportunity to educate them and the District's other 6,500 students about climate change, how we currently meet our energy needs, the benefits of alternative forms of energy and how solar energy generation works.
""We've already learned a lot about solar energy and renewable resources, and are really looking forward to being docents on February 5 to teach more kids about it," said Szeto and Brindle. "It's important to teach the elementary students about solar energy and other things we can do to take care of the Earth."
Szeto and Brindle will be two of 12 middle school student docents who will conduct tours of the new photovoltaic system for elementary school students throughout the coming weeks.
"That peer-to-peer learning opportunity is an important one and really underscores all we are doing as a District to integrate environmental sustainability into everything we teach," LaRose said. "From math and science to statistics and art, we are reminding our students that the environment is important and empowering them to play an active role in protecting it."
To reinforce that, the District will hold a series of assemblies on the morning of February 3 at Robert Frost Auditorium in conjunction with the Alliance for Climate Education (ACE), a national nonprofit dedicated to educating America's students about the science behind climate change and inspiring them to do something about it.
"This is an amazing assembly that will really inspire the students to take action," said Jon Barton of the District's Sustainability Committee. "We are so excited about bringing ACE to Culver City and hope the wide range of opportunities to get involved in projects that address the environment will be a catalyst for our students to pursue their own projects."
Todd Johnson, co-chair of the Sustainability Committee, said the District's efforts could have a huge positive impact on education.
"The schools that have air conditioning use three times as much energy per student as other schools in the District. If we can utilize Prop 39 money to pay for high-efficiency and advanced energy management systems, to get that down to twice the usage, that should be enough to pay for a new teacher salary every year!"