Frederick County schools employees are turning off lights more often and doing more to conserve energy, but there still is room for improvement.
Results of an ongoing internal audit show 18 of 51 schools surveyed this year are doing a good job in cutting back on energy usage — receiving an “A” or “B” grade; 24 schools received a “C,” and six schools received a “D.”
The audit — conducted by Frederick County Public Schools energy coordinator Charlie Dalphon — ranks schools based on staff’s practices in reducing energy waste, and evaluates schools on whether employees turn off lights in empty classrooms, turn off water or use unauthorized personal appliances.
The audit has found most room for improvement at three schools: Gov. Thomas Johnson High, Brunswick High and New Market Middle — all of which all received an “F”
Although low-scoring schools will not be penalized, they will begin working with school system staff to reduce energy waste, Dalphon said.
“We send out a report to the schools and we attach recommendations on how they can better their score,” he said.
Schools that received an “A,” however, will receive a plaque and be recognized for their efforts, said Dalphon, who plans to complete the audit of every school by the end of the school year.
“We’ve created a type of competition among schools,” said Dalphon, who has been conducting the annual audit for three years. “... No one wants to be at the bottom of the list.”
He said it was difficult to compare last year’s results to this year’s audit because schools were assessed based on different factors.
While conducting the audit, Dalphon said he observes whether refrigerators are shut, and searches for fans that might have been left running after hours. He also pays close attention to whether teachers, support staff and administrators shut of lights when they leave a room.
At New Market Middle, which received the worst ranking in this year’s audit, Dalphon found lights on in 16 of 18 unoccupied classrooms.
In a top-scoring school, the lights were on in one of 13 unoccupied classes.
“We are doing everything we can to save taxpayers money,” he said.
Dalphon, however, said he is unsure how much will be saved.
Donna Faith, a former principal at Middletown Middle School, took pride in the fact her school ranked at the top of the list. So when she moved to Thurmont Middle, which previously trailed in energy conservation, she made it a goal to improve.
It was not an easy task, especially when she banned personal appliances — such as mini-refrigerators and coffee pots — from classrooms and offices, Faith said. Faith also met with Dalphon to get tips on reducing energy waste and involved the school community, including custodians, parents and students, in the effort.
“The way we presented this is to ask everyone to think about the money that could be saved,” Faith said. “That is more money that we will have in our budget for school supplies, instructional materials.”
The effort has paid off and this year as Thurmont Middle received a “B.”
Brunswick High also is seeking to improve its standing after scoring next to last in this year’s audit, said principal Jack Newkirk.
Next year, Newkirk wants to offer more training to help inform staff about their energy use. Reminders also will be posted telling staff to turn out the lights when they leave a classroom.
“It is all about making people aware,” Newkirk said.