September 26, 2011
State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Outlines Schools
Future Report, Hails Completion of Solar
Project at San Mateo Union's Aragon High School
SAN MATEO—California should retool its school construction process to foster 21st century learning, streamline school-building regulations to help create jobs, and change state law to encourage campuses to install solar and other renewable power systems, according to a report released today by a State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.
Torlakson announced the release of the Schools of the Future Report and highlighted key recommendations at a ceremony to dedicate a solar power system installed at Aragon High School and the five other campuses in the San Mateo Union High School District.
"Our students deserve to learn in schools designed for the 21st century—not relics of the past," Torlakson said. "California can lead the way, and help our schools save money and create good jobs in the process. The solar power system coming online today at Aragon High School shows that the time to create the schools of the future is now."
San Mateo Union Board President Stephen E. Rogers served as co-chair of Torlakson's Schools of the Future Team, and helped lead the effort to install solar power at the district's campuses, paid for by a local bond measure approved by voters.
"Our project proves a central theme of the Schools of the Future Team's report: that schools can embrace clean, renewable energy while putting more money into the classroom and creating new opportunities for our students to learn about the environment," Rogers said.
The 17,000 solar panels installed on school roofs, along with other energy-efficiency measures already put in place, are expected to save and generate 3.72 megawatts—enough power to offset 48 percent of the energy needs at the schools, saving the district $1.2 million in annual energy costs.
The project also included developing sustainable energy curriculum, supplies, and equipment for use in district classrooms, allowing students to learn firsthand about renewable power systems and energy efficiency.
PG&E provided grants and training in support of the project, and helped the district fast track the effort.
Torlakson created the Schools of the Future Team to bring together creative thinkers from schools, labor, and business to examine the planning, design, and financing of school construction projects as well as fostering sustainability and energy efficiency.
The 90-member team compiled its recommendations into the 90-page report that Torlakson made public today. The complete report is available online at: Schools of the Future Report (PDF; Posted 23-Sep-2011).
Torlakson said that while many elements of the report would require additional study and review, he would move to carry out several key recommendations, including:
- Support a future statewide facilities bond measure to fund new construction and modernization projects throughout the state that will invest in students and teachers and create jobs.
- Examine regulations to ensure they are streamlined, promote safe and sustainable schools, and meet the needs of today's students.
- Highlight best practices for school facilities by creating a Web page with links to research on creating learner-centered, safe, sustainable schools that are centers of the community.
- Sponsor legislation to encourage schools to install solar and other renewable energy systems. Torlakson is sponsoring SB 843 (Lois Wolk D-Davis), which would lift the cap on the size of school solar projects and allow school districts to aggregate renewable energy generated at one school—or at an off-site solar farm—to offset costs at other campuses.
- Establish a Green Schools Award. Torlakson said the California Department of Education (CDE) would partner with the U.S. Department of Education in the pilot year of their Green Ribbon Schools award, which was announced earlier this month.
- Taking a leadership role helping schools become energy efficient. Torlakson named CDE architect Diane Waters as Energy Liaison. Waters will serve as a clearinghouse for best practices and advocate for schools while working with the state's Energy and Public Utilities commissions.
Torlakson also said his office would review the Team's other recommendations regarding legislation, including creating a 21st century schools renovation program, increasing modernization funding for renewable energy, and restoring dedicated and sustained school maintenance funding.