Following the nomination of their elementary school for National Blue Ribbon School award last week, the Gunter Independent School District is excited about another, different color: green

Gunter ISD received a rebate check from its energy provider totaling more than $5,800 Tuesday after completing its roughly $1.5 million, districtwide, high-efficiency electricity project.

Gunter Independent School District Superintendent Jill Siler said the district partnered with Schneider Electric last year to overhaul its utilities and appliances

“The goal was to replace much of our aging HVAC system, to refurbish all of the lighting in our district with energy efficient bulbs and to put in a districtwide energy management system,” Siler said. “All of our AC units are now computerized, we can schedule when the units and lighting will run and it’s really great.”

Siler said that maintaining the district’s aging facilities and utilities would and did create for steep costs, especially when multiple pieces of utility equipment had to be replaced at the same time. She said just replacing a handful of HVAC units is equivalent to a teacher’s aid salary for an entire year.

Gunter’s superintendent said the rebate check, which was presented by a local Schneider representative and issued by Oncor, is just the first such return on its energy investment. She explained the district is poised to save an estimated $2.2 million in utility costs over the next 20 years thanks to the upgrades.

“Energy and maintenance costs are a significant portion of our budget and, obviously, we want to spend as much of our funds as we can on the classroom directly,” Siler said. “So, any way that we can find to decrease our costs in those other areas, we get very excited about. This was an opportunity to accomplish a long-term goal in the short term.”

To help address those aging facilities, Siler said she and the board agreed that the money saved will be set aside for a strategic planning initiative that will likely include conversations about growth and construction.

Siler said she is confident that Gunter students will use electricity responsibly as they grow older and will learn from the district’s push for energy efficiency and conservation.

“Our kids need to know that energy has a cost, both in dollars and in a cost to our planet,” Siler said. “The more we can do to educate them to be good stewards of our planet, the better and that’s just a life lesson that they’ll carry with them forever.”