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Energy savings program paying off for schools
Grant Swallows.jpg

A plan to lower the school system’s annual $1.6 million energy bill is working, but COVID-19 skewed the numbers. 

“I caution you, we are in a little bit of a different place simply because of how we ended the school year last year,” said Director of Schools Grant Swallows, when asked during a county Education Committee meeting to provide information on the school system’s experiences with Energy Savings Group. “We’ve had a considerable amount of energy savings. It’s up over $300,000. That’s also not going to be typical because we weren’t in the buildings for three months. We don’t use a whole lot of energy in the summer anyway.”

He did provide the following comparison:

In June 2017, the school’s electric bill from McMinnville Electric System was $74,299 and from Caney Fork Electric was $36,792. In June 2020, those bills were $54,793 and $23,181, respectively, and provided a savings of $19,506 and $13,611.

County Commissioner Deborah Evans asked if those savings were earmarked or could they be used to provide devices, such as Chromebooks, for students who would like to take advantage of the online learning option but do not have a computer at home. 

“It is earmarked,” said Swallows. “Access is what really keeps me up at night. Even if we could purchase a portable device for every student to take home, there are some students that don’t have great internet access at their homes.”

Due to COVID-19, the school system offered students an option: a traditional school year or the school’s VIP remote learning. More than 1,250 students signed up for the school’s VIP remote learning. 

“If we went fully remote learning we would try to work with those students that don’t have a device or internet access at home,” said Swallows. 

The county Education Committee met via Zoom.