No School Left Behind: How Technology is Helping Schools Go Green

In 2011, the United States initiated the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) program. The goal was inspiring schools, districts and Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) “to strive for 21st century excellence, by highlighting promising practices and resources that all can employ.” Those selected each year demonstrate outstanding progress in three areas, referred to as the Three Pillars:

  1. Promoting better health for students and staff
  2. Providing effective environmental education—incorporating STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), civic skills and green career pathways
  3. Taking action to reduce environmental impact and utility costs.

Last year’s 81 honorees, voluntarily nominated by 30 state education agencies, were selected from 28 jurisdictions. This includes 52 public schools and six private schools serving various grade levels and diverse populations. Of the 35 elementary, 19 middle and 17 high schools selected, 47 percent serve a disadvantaged student body, 22 percent are from rural areas, and 33 percent of the postsecondary institutions were community colleges.These numbers may seem small compared to the thousands of educational institutions in the U.S., but for every publicly recognized school, district or IHE, countless more are working tirelessly toward their green ribbons. Focused on reducing environmental impact and cutting energy consumption, educational institutions and communities everywhere are realizing tremendous benefits from new technology and software applications. They are not only cost-effective, but simple to use, even for an IT department of one.

Schools with new tools

Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) is part of a committed, environmentally conscious community that takes pride as a U.S. leader of sustainability. As a community hub, BVSD supports the community’s sustainability efforts which include offering residents and businesses a reliable and affordable power supply. By installing cloud-based, energy-saving software to nearly 10,000 computers and devices with virtual server technology, BVSD’s IT team manages power usage on thousands of computers with a single interface. This is a significant step toward reducing costs while helping the community achieve its environmental goals and a clean energy future.

Positive economic growth in any community relies on educational opportunities, including modernized facilities and technology. When visitors consider moving to a new community, they are typically interested in touring schools to observe opportunities available for their children. New technology plays an important role in the classroom, but it is critical to running cost-effective, efficient schools to provide quality education.

Cloud-based solutions improve efficiency and save taxpayer money

The National School Boards Association recently honored Nevada’s second largest school district, Washoe County School District (WCSD), for increasing its graduation rate, increasing the achievement of low-income and minority students, and placing highly qualified teachers in schools with the greatest need. Serving 63,000 students across 93 school sites in Reno and Sparks, WCSD strives for academic excellence and environmental stewardship. Working to streamline processes and reduce its carbon footprint, the district deploys cloud-based software, which saves up to $500,000 in energy costs each year.

Even small school districts are taking initiatives with energy cost savings and better technology solutions. These decisions help administrators direct resources toward educating students rather than expanding operational costs.For example, Donnie Morgan oversees all technology issues for Stanton County Unified School District 452 (USD 452), the only school district in Johnson, Kansas. Like many rural U.S. school districts, budgetary constraints create challenges for Ms. Morgan, who had few resources available for managing, maintaining and updating nearly 350 outdated computers. With a chaotic IT environment, Ms. Morgan explored a free trial of a Syxsense , which included energy-saving tools. She ran the demo and performed a lab update within 15 minutes, something that would normally take several hours. She realized this was the perfect solution for not only simplifying IT processes, but also cutting energy consumption for the entire district. CMS ultimately benefits the bottom line, environment and quality of education in USD 452.

Technology’s transformational potential—beyond the classroom

Regardless of geographic and economic barriers, America is finding new ways to use technology beyond the classroom. With an estimated annual revenue of $605 billion from K-12 education, there is potential for transformation through advancing technologies. Administrators are faced with diminishing resources and rising expectations, thus investing in cost-efficient technology is crucial. As educational institutions strive to reduce costs and improve student outcomes through technology, Green Ribbon Schools may become a thing of the past due to 100 percent success. However, this is a stepping stone towards increased sustainability for the world.

This article was originally published on TMCnet.