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Post date: November 17 2011

A.G. Schneiderman Announces $450,000 For Albany County School District To Create "High Performance" Schools

High Performance Schools Increase Energy Efficiency, Improve Environmental Conditions in Classrooms and Reduce Operating Costs

Funds from Environmental Settlement With Lafarge North America Will Foster Student Learning At No Cost To Taxpayers

Schneiderman: Clean And Healthy Schools Are Critical To Educational Achievement


ALBANY - New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the creation of a nearly $450,000 grant program to help the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk (RCS) Central School District transform district school buildings into "high performance" schools at no cost to taxpayers  The improvements will increase building energy efficiency, improve environmental conditions in classrooms and reduce operating costs for the District. The program was created in partnership with the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).   

Funding for the program announced today was obtained by New York as a result of a multi-state settlement with Lafarge North America, Inc. and its subsidiaries, one of the nation’s largest cement companies, over alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act related to emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides.  The company operates 13 cement plants nationwide, including a facility in the Village of Ravena. 

"Clean and healthy schools are critical to educational achievement," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "The nearly $450,000 being provided to the RCS Central School District will fund improvements that will not only enhance the learning environment of its classrooms, but will also save the district money. I am proud to partner with DEC Commissioner Joseph Martens and NYSERDA President and CEO Francis J. Murray Jr. to make this investment in the community and the academic success of its students." 

"The financial support being made available to the RCS Central School District will go a long way in making significant improvements to the environment," said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens. "The energy-efficient upgrades being considered will provide an enhanced atmosphere both in and out of the classroom, helping to protect the environment and public health of those working and learning within the RCS School District.  Members of the staff here at DEC are happy to work collaboratively with Attorney General Schneiderman to achieve this positive outcome."

Classroom environmental conditions in schools -- such as lighting, heating, ventilation, and indoor environmental quality -- are strongly linked to educational achievement, including student concentration, attendance, and test scores.  Nonetheless, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, over 40 percent of America’s public schools report at least one unsatisfactory environmental condition.  Roughly 25 percent of public schools report unsatisfactory ventilation, while indoor air quality is reported to be unsatisfactory in about 20 percent of schools.

Moreover, a school's lighting, heating, ventilation and other mechanical systems consume substantial amounts of energy.  In fact, according to the federal Energy Star program, our nation's school districts spend more on energy annually than they do on computers and textbooks combined.  Energy Star estimates that as much as 30 percent of a typical district’s total energy is used inefficiently or unnecessarily. 

The New York State Education Department’s High Performance Schools Guidelines (NY-CHPS) were developed in 2007 as a framework for school districts to implement measures in schools that enhance the educational environment and facilitate learning. High performance schools optimize resources over the life of the facility, are less expensive to operate than standard buildings, and help to ensure a clean and healthy learning environment for all occupants.   

The program announced today, to be administered by NYSERDA, will foster the creation of high performance schools in the RCS Central School District by funding projects to improve energy efficiency, reduce operational costs and enhance the educational environment at District schools. 

“This funding for the Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk School District will have a positive impact not only on students and staff – with improvements to school buildings – but to the district, which will recognize cost savings through energy efficiency measures and system upgrades,” said Francis J. Murray Jr., President and CEO of NYSERDA. “We are pleased to partner with Attorney General Schneiderman and Commissioner Martens in assisting the district to provide a healthier and more energy-efficient classroom environment.”

Interim RCS Superintendent of Schools Elisabeth Smith said, "We are pleased that the Attorney General's Office and DEC are investing in the RCS School District. This substantial funding will provide the District with the resources to undertake school improvements that will increase our energy conservation, save us money and, best of all, enhance the educational environment we provide for our students.  We are eager to work with all of the appropriate parties, including members of the community, to put these improvements in place as soon as possible."

The RCS Central School District already has identified improvement opportunities at its Middle and High schools, having performed  both an energy efficiency audit and a NY-CHPS audit at the schools.  This work identified a number of potential projects for funding, including installing high-efficiency lighting, boilers and water heating systems, as well as upgrading building ventilation and air filtration systems. 

Susan Falzon, spokesperson for Friends of Hudson, said, "We commend the New York Attorney General's Office, the  Department of Environmental Conservation and NYSERDA for listening to the concerns of the Friends of Hudson and others in the community.  The dedication of the funds to the RCS School District will provide the District with the means and flexibility to make a wide variety of much-needed environmental and energy efficiency improvements in its schools.  As such, the State's funding will make an important contribution to enhancing the health and welfare of our community."

Elyse Kunz, Co-Founder, Community Advocates for Safe Emissions (CASE), said, "CASE is grateful to Attorney General Schneiderman and DEC Commissioner Martens for directing this settlement money to our community where it can be put to good use to enhance the quality of life for students at RCS.  Improving the welfare of the Ravena community, and particularly its children, has been a longstanding focus of CASE and many others in the community, and we applaud the State's investment in and support of this effort." 

The RCS Central School District encompasses Coeymans and parts of the towns of Bethlehem, New Scotland and the Greene County town of New Baltimore. The district serves approximately 2,100 students in grades Pre-K through 12 at its four schools: A.W. Becker Elementary; Pieter B. Coeymans Elementary; RCS Middle School and RCS High School.

This matter was handled for the Office of the Attorney General by Policy Analyst Jeremy Magliaro and Assistant Attorney General Michael Myers of the Environmental Protection Bureau under the supervision of Albany Deputy Bureau Chief Lisa Burianek along with Blaise Constantakes and Michelle Crew of the DEC.