It's 'lights out' in Central Kitsap schools

"Pressure from Gov. Gary Locke and Puget Sound Energy, as well as skyrocketing heating costs are putting the squeeze on the Central Kitsap School District, and employees are taking steps to conserve. The governor recently sent out a directive to state and local agencies asking them to cut electricity use by 10 percent. This directive has been passed on to schools in the district and principals and the custodial staff are attempting to comply with the order, district administrators said.In response to the governor's plan, we've reduced outdoor lighting and taken many other steps, said Dirk Gleysteen, director of operations for the Central Kitsap School District. In some cases, evening events and meetings have been cancelled in the name of conservation. On Dec. 10-12, just before the district's Christmas break, schools that receive power at a reduced rate from PSE were asked to shut down buildings from 4-9 p.m.We had to move a concert and change some meeting times, but it all worked out really well, said Connie Gates, principal of Tracyton Elementary School.Not all buildings are obligated to change their schedules when PSE asks, according to Gleysteen. PSE no longer offers the reduced rates, and newer school buildings don't have them. Therefore, they are not obligated to shut down. Nonetheless, the district is working actively to cut its utility bills. Through studies and research, officials have identified areas where electricity is being wasted. CKSD's operations department is studying Tracyton and Seabeck elementary schools to see how much energy can be saved by putting in digital controls to time heating and lighting equipment and installing weather stripping. The steps the district has taken are paying off so far, according the Gleysteen.We have reduced our demand by a bunch of kilowatt hours (more than 200). So far, we have saved enough to run 3,200 household hotwater heaters, he said.Conservation efforts have helped keep utility bills inside the district's budget.Our actual expenditures are running at about the same amount as last year and I don't think that would have happened without conservation, said Gary Powell, CKSD's assistant superintendent for business and operations.While many school officials have talked to faculty about the issue, the emphasis has not been on educating students about the power crisis.We haven't done anything formally with the kids, but I had the idea of talking to them and asking them for ideas of what they can do to help so they can take that home with them. But mostly we've left it up to the teachers, said Bruce Hobert, principal of PineCrest Elementary.Teachers have been left to their own devices, but some have taken the ball and run with it.We've talked about it. Lighting is minor compared to how much energy it takes for heat, said Marie Crumb, a biology and chemistry teacher at Central Kitsap High School. We talk about alternative sources of heat and and sleeping cool - teens seem to do that anyway, though.Crumb said she urges students to turn off anything that gets hot, like the TV, and she emphasizes the fact that conservation saves money. "

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