On May 18 the Santa Monica – Malibu Unified School District Board of Education met at the SMMUSD office and the popular topic of the night covered sustainability and future efforts throughout the district.

An estimated 100 people to the meeting, leaving many people standing or listening in the next room over.

SMMUSD Chief Operations Officer, Carey Upton, presented information of past sustainability efforts along with long-range planning for the future.

Upton explains the district is working hard toward a sustainability plan for every school within SMMUSD.

“We have been working on Proposition 39 which is a K-12 program that provides grant funds for energy projects, upgrades and clean energy at schools,” said Upton.
“The district has been granted $1.8 million dollars to save energy and costs. With the approval of the Board we have contracted with Indoor Environmental Services to support the Prop 39 grant.”

IES has completed a full district energy audit and has made recommendation on ways to save energy throughout the district.

Two of SMMUSD main sustainable efforts would be replacing lighting with more efficient LED lights across the district. Another priority that was mentioned was to install solar panels.

“We are considering options for offsite solar alternatives that would reduce the school’s energy costs by securing access to renewable energy,” said Upton.

During the presentation Upton explained the district has budgeted $8 million dollars in Measure ES funds to add renewable energy sources. Measure ES is a $385 million bond passed by voters in 2012 and is part of the current and long-ranged sustainability discussion.

The district will also be participating with Southern California Edison and Southern California Gas in the Continuous Energy Improvement program. The program will assess their current energy usage, set goals and not only develop an energy management plan but also implement planned actions and evaluate management efforts.

The Board did approve the hiring of a sustainability coordinator.

“Sustainability is an important priority for our community, and the district,” said Boardmember Craig Foster. “The only way to move this forward successfully is to have somebody responsible for making sure all aspects of sustainability are looked after, taken care of and incorporated into our plan.”

The sustainability coordinator position is expected to plan, organize, and oversee ongoing sustainability projects for SMMUSD.

Upton ended the presentation explaining the initial goals are to develop a sustainable building infrastructure, integrate sustainable practices throughout the school district, and incorporate sustainability into all aspects of the educational culture.

After the presentation the Board felt it was best to skip questions for Upton and move to public comments.

The Board of Education smiled as the room filled with students, educators, parents, and community members, leaving many people standing and outside the doors.

There were 70 public comments related to the sustainability initiative. Each individual received sixty seconds to express his or her opinions and concerns about future actions.

A majority of comments were made by students, ranging from topics about sustainable nutrition, recycling dry erase markers, to solar panels on campus.

The Board acknowledged the students and the communities’ commitment to sustainability.

“These kids that showed up really care about the planet and their school and they did a great job making sure their voices were heard,” said SMMUSD Communication & Public Relations Officer, Gail Pinsker. “Down the road there will be a sustainability plan that will need to be approved but it will be a long process getting to that final plan.”

All the Board members showed their support and all are in agreement toward moving forward in creating a strong sustainability effort throughout the district.