By KATHLEEN KARPUK
Trustee, School District 73
ENSURE THE the sustainable uses of our resources. Seven words that have a very big impact on how School District 73 operates. It’s the sixth pillar in our long-term strategic plan and it affects every department, program and person in the district.
We focus on sustainability during the budget process. When a program or service is introduced into the district we need to make sure that the funds are there to maintain that program for more than one year. It doesn’t make sense to start a program only to discontinue it because of a lack of funds.
We align our spending with the priorities identified with our stakeholders to ensure that new and continued spending is in the areas that will move us forward. This helps prevent wasteful spending on projects or programs that aren’t in the best interest of our students.
We promote and incorporate sustainable environmental practices in all of our facilities. We have installed energy efficient lighting in our schools and support buildings, upgraded our irrigation systems, and have been upgrading the HVAC and boiler systems.
In the process, we have reduced our electricity, natural gas and propane consumption substantially, decreased our water usage, reduced our greenhouse gas emissions and saved over $9 million since 2004.
We encourage composting programs in schools and district buildings, every classroom recycles and many schools such as Brock and Clearwater secondary schools have gardens and food sustainability classes.
We keep a close eye on our facilities and infrastructure to ensure that it is being used sustainably. An example is the choice of adding a portable or a bus route. A portable is more expensive than buying a bus, but within two years the savings are wiped out by the wages and fuel costs needed to operate the bus. More greenhouse gasses are generated. Children riding the bus walk less and lose out on afterschool activities such as sports teams.
Changing demographics mean we review our school catchments regularly and shift them as neighbourhoods change. We work with our municipal partners to stay abreast of where new developments are being built so that we can anticipate where we may need additional space.
Neighbourhoods mature and the numbers of students drop leaving schools with extra space. When the neighbourhood transitions back to younger families, schools fill up again. According to Statistics Canada, when most of our schools were built in the 1960s the average household had five or more people, now it’s two and a half.
Our focus on sustainability means that every decision we make is made through the lens of maintaining or improving the levels of programing and services that we currently have without compromising our ability to keep those programs and services in the future.
It means we consider the environmental impact of adding busses versus students walking and the type of lighting we install. We keep a close watch on our buildings to make sure that they are being used in a manner that best benefits our students and our community. Sustainability isn’t just a catchword, it’s what we do.
Kathleen Karpuk is chair of the Kamloops Board of Education’s finance and planning committee. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.