SPRINGFIELD - Thanks to $625,000 in funding from Governor Rod Blagojevich’s Opportunity Returns regional economic development program, students returning to school today at the new Cuba Illinois Middle-Senior High School will find themselves surrounded not only by green acres of nearby corn but also by a “green building” that is a new model for energy cost savings and sustainability practices in Illinois. The funding came from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity’s Bureau of Energy and Recycling.
“Illinois can be very proud of this model school,” said Governor Blagojevich. “This green school uses natural daylighting, which studies have shown increases children’s test scores, as well as other energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies. Through energy efficiency, we can reduce the energy costs for the local school district and improve student performance at the same time. This school will shine as an outstanding model that others across the state can emulate.”
In construction of this Illinois “green school”, every effort was made to incorporate as many elements of energy efficiency and renewable energy as possible, resulting in lower operating costs, increased safety and environmental health conditions, improved learning conditions and an example of environmental responsibility and sustainable behavior for students and the surrounding communities.
“Green architecture has gained great momentum in recent years and rightfully so. I’m very pleased to see Governor Blagojevich supporting this technology in our schools. It will serve as a great educational tool for students - promoting creativity and environmental responsibility while also enhancing the widespread appeal of green design. Illinois continues to be a model of innovative ideas in action,” State Senator George Shadid (D-Pekin) said.
Throughout the planning and construction phases, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity provided $625,000 in grants to fund the innovative “green” components at the school. Projects include a geothermal heating and cooling system, a 60-kilowatt photovoltaic array to convert sunlight to energy, and classroom day lighting, which provides natural light throughout the school and is shown to improve student performance.
“This green school is a great project for the kids—they can be inspired by the building itself, as well as by what they learn in the classrooms. But with energy costs on the rise, this project is also a good demonstration of innovative economic development. By creating a super-efficient building, using solar panels, such as those made here in Illinois, and investing in Illinois workers to install geothermal heating and cooling, we’re developing a new energy economy for the new century that keeps our energy dollars here at home rather than exporting them for natural gas or oil,” said DCEO Director Jack Lavin. DCEO’s Bureau of Energy and Recycling administers a comprehensive portfolio of energy and recycling programs statewide.
“We envision our school as a living laboratory, and we plan to work energy savings, monitoring, and other green design concepts into our operations and curriculum,” said Cuba Superintendent Dr. Janice Spears.
Additional highlights of the school’s design are use of special energy efficiency lighting, such as zoned lighting and motion sensors in classrooms and hallways to reduce unnecessary demand for electricity, 100% recycled/recyclable carpeting, crumb rubber athletic fields, and gymnasium bleacher seating created from recycled materials. These energy efficient building techniques will save the school 35 to 40% of their energy costs per year in comparison to conventional construction practices.
This “green” school project received overwhelming community support, including the passage of a referendum by the Fulton County Community Unit School District No. 3, which provided $2.7 million to build the school. A private donation by the late Alice Millard was also a key factor.
Governor Blagojevich’s Opportunity Returns regional economic development plan is the most aggressive, comprehensive approach to creating jobs in Illinois’ history. Since a one-size-fits-all approach to economic development just doesn’t work, the Governor has divided the state into 10 regions – finding areas with
common economic strengths and needs, and developing a plan with specific actions for each region. This grassroots effort for the North Central region is a product of significant outreach over several months throughout each region, with business, civic and labor leaders, and elected officials. The projects that the Governor announced in December for the North Central region are designed to be flexible and effective. Each plan is tailored to deliver real results that local businesses will see, feel, and, hopefully, profit from.