Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: Our schools need to be part of the climate solution

I was pleased to see all the ACSD schoolboard candidates’ replies to your five queries. All were thoughtful and were responsive to your questions.

I wish that in question 4, you had also asked the candidates their views about how to make the schools’ physical plant more climate-friendly in the course of the needed maintenance, repair and replacement. None of them addressed that issue spontaneously.

All three of our school districts in Addison County, and the Hannaford Career Center, have many substantial buildings that need heat (and air conditioning) and are currently major consumers of fossil fuels. If we are to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels county-wide, our schools have to be part of the solution. The threefold mantra for achieving that goal is: Electrify Everything! Decarbonize the Electricity! Meanwhile, reduce fossil fuel use that you can’t eliminate yet. Replacing propane, natural gas or fuel oil boilers with cold-climate heat pumps supports the Electrify Everything strategy. Adding solar panels to produce electricity on-site supports the second strategy. Improving insulation and building tightness supports the third.

It might not be prudent to replace most fossil fuel-burning heating equipment till it is near or at the end of its expected useful life. But when we do need to replace such equipment, installation of cold-climate heat pump technology needs to be part of the decision matrix. It may cost more to install than just replacing existing boilers, but it will save on monthly bills for years to come and protect the district from price volatility in the fossil fuels market.

While not the focus of this letter, the three school boards also have an opportunity now to press their school bus contractor to start replacing gasoline and diesel buses with electric ones.

Next time, please do ask school board candidates a question that addresses climate-friendliness of building renovation projects, as well as how the costs will be managed.

Richard S. Hopkins

Middlebury

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