District saves half a million dollars during 2020/21 school year

“It’s a team effort.”

Those are the words of Facility Manager Michael Rushton as he updated the School Board on the district’s energy conservation efforts.

From district level support to individual schools, Rushton emphasized that the success we were seeing was due to Team Bethel working together. He specifically called out a number of groups, everyone from the Business Office to building administrators. “Principals are very helpful,” he said. “They really take on the challenges.”

Utility savings across the district

Because the school buildings were closed for some of 2020, across the board the district saw nearly half a million dollars in decreased spending on utilities.

There was a 48% decrease in water use across the district during the year, along with an 18% drop in heating costs. The district even saved on trash and recycling. Instead of automated pick ups, custodians notified the company only when a pick up was needed, saving $192,000.

Ventilation upgrades make schools safer

Rushton said that the pandemic pointed out some areas for improvement in the district as well, particularly when it came to ventilation and indoor air quality.

The district was using filters with a MERV rating of 8. Due to the pandemic, the move was made to increase filtration to MERV 13 filters.

“MERV 13 is what hospitals use at their lowest level,” said Rushton.

HVAC upgrades increase energy efficiency

Boilers were replaced at Cougar Mountain Middle School and North Star Elementary. These upgrades helped with nearly a 50% reduction in energy use at Cougar Mountain, and 35% at North Star.


At Roy Elementary, a propane fueled gym heater was accounting for 27% of the school’s winter energy spending. It was replaced with a high efficiency system. At same time, electric unit ventilators were replaced in Roy’s multipurpose room with new high efficiency systems. Both the gym and the multipurpose room are not only more efficient, but now they both have cooling as well as heating. Energy Star Prior to the pandemic, the national Energy Star metric was redone and ratings across the country dipped. Our district’s average went from 94% to 75%. Now, thanks to the work of Team Bethel, we’re already back up to 86%. Rushton said that growth isn’t just because of the lack of occupancy during the pandemic. A lot of work has gone into improving our buildings to make them operate more efficiently and safely for staff and students.