How K-12 Schools Are Adapting to COVID-19
It’s no secret that COVID-19 has deeply impacted school districts across the U.S. On top of the immediate concerns of deciding how to teach remotely and when to reopen, school districts are also facing new changes to their daily operations that were harder to foresee and more complex to deal with, such as changing energy management during COVID-19 and K-12 online enrollment.
The widespread shutdown during the pandemic is predicted to lead to massive budget cuts. To maximize cost savings and streamline operations, here are a few areas where K-12 schools can take cautionary action.
Changes to energy management during COVID-19
Some school districts have rapidly responded to these new circumstances with proactive energy management. For a school district that is looking to save budget wherever possible, monitoring and reducing energy usage onsite can capture the low-hanging fruit of nonessential costs. The top priorities should be 1) isolating and shutting down power for properties that are no longer in use, and 2) calculating the costs saved from reduced energy usage to make room for other budget items.
Fusebox, an energy and water management software provider, offers 10 best practices for K-12 schools to reduce costs and optimize energy management during COVID-19:
- Put all unused building spaces on “unoccupied” mode. If you have an energy management system (EMS), you can simply adjust set points within the system. Without an EMS, you’ll need to make adjustments at each thermostat.
- Do not put your EMS on standby mode. This will compromise savings opportunities that you could otherwise passively achieve.
- Prevent your staff from arbitrarily entering buildings when they’re not scheduled to be there. In these situations, unscheduled visits can compromise their safety, defeat the purpose of building closures, and drive up energy costs.
- Put all fans or air handlers on “off” mode instead of “on” or “auto.”
- Turn all lighting, other than emergency or security lights, off.
- Turn off and unplug all other nonessential electrical items (if using power strips, turn them off).
- Lower the temperature of your water heating systems.
- Keep a close eye on interval meter data to ensure that no equipment is malfunctioning and that the HVAC is properly turned off.
- Monitor internal water fixtures to ensure that they’re not malfunctioning or running needlessly.
- Limit outdoor watering or irrigation only to essential needs.
By implementing these best practices, K-12 schools have already seen results. Legacy Traditional Schools, a charter school system in Arizona, took steps to isolate areas of the campus, set thermostats to “unoccupied,” and stagger start times to adjust for peak usage and energy spikes. Between mid-March and early May alone, Legacy Schools reduced energy usage by 462,940 kWh, amounting to $48,053 in savings.
By implementing these best practices, Legacy Schools reduced energy usage by 462,940 kWh, amounting to $48,053 in savings.
While switching up the strategy for energy management during COVID-19 can seem overwhelming, it’s easier with an EMS to automate the process. As Robert Holmes, Facilities Director for the school system’s service provider, said: “Recently with COVID-19, Fusebox has diligently worked with us to monitor all 15 of our campuses in Arizona. The services of Fusebox have paid for themselves in savings.”
K-12 online enrollment during COVID-19
Another result of the pandemic that schools may not have foreseen is the sudden shift to K-12 online enrollment and verification of students. While many school districts have an online enrollment process in place, some still rely on paper enrollment forms. Even once schools reopen, moving this process online will be critical to reducing unnecessary crowds and keeping students and educators safe.
Even once schools reopen, effective K-12 online enrollment will be critical to reducing unnecessary crowds and keeping students and educators safe.
Magnus Health, best known for its cloud-based Student Health Record (SHR) solution, allows schools to digitally collect student enrollment and re-enrollment forms. Parents can submit all of their information from the comfort of their homes for school staff to remotely review. This digital process eliminates the need for printing, mailing, or collecting paper forms.
However, digital enrollment forms are just one piece of the puzzle. Oftentimes, K-12 schools need to collect additional documentation to verify student information such as current address. Without automating the entire document collection process, school districts will still have to rely on paper. Urjanet can help by providing digital access to a household’s most recent utility or phone bill to prove where they live.
K-12 schools are taking action
School districts across the U.S. have stepped up to take proactive measures during COVID-19, from remote energy management to digital enrollment and verification. Continuing to think long-term and adapt to new circumstances will help K-12 schools streamline their processes and make necessary budget cuts, so that our students and educators can safely stay up and running. To learn more about how Urjanet technology can help your organization maintain business continuity, you can sign up for a free risk assessment.
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About Amy Hou
Amy Hou is a Marketing Manager at Urjanet, overseeing content and communications. She enjoys writing about the latest industry updates in sustainability, energy efficiency, and data innovation.