District 203 doubles down on sustainability plan with new contract

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Naperville School District 203 (D203) officials have entered into a months-long agreement with an outside consulting firm to help bring a series of sustainability efforts to the next level in the planning and implementation process.

Keramida, an Indianapolis-based firm specializing in global sustainability solutions, will work with D203 staffers on a two-pronged set of goals: a greenhouse gas inventory that could cost up to $12,000 and the development of a carbon action plan is capped at $25,000, based on terms of the agreement.

The board of education approved the Keramida contract at its meeting on Monday, March 18, after hearing a big-picture, up-to-date presentation on District 203’s ongoing sustainability efforts. 

Keramida one of nine bidders

D203 earlier this year had been out a request for quotations, or RFQ, to prospective companies interested in shepherding the sustainability plan. Keramida was one of nine companies to respond to the district’s RFQ overtures.

Director of Buildings and Grounds Melanie Brown said there was a number of reasons D203 administrators were recommending Keramida for the forthcoming planning exercise.

“We felt that Keramida’s experience, vision for our project and our assigned team are in full alignment with what we’re looking for in a vendor partner for this project,” Brown said.

With the ink dry on a contract, Brown said the intent is to begin conversations with Keramida immediately to get the process moving on the first phase, which will involve a data-gathering process on the district’s current and historical use of carbon energy. The process is expected to take six to eight weeks.

Once completion on the first phase is complete, Brown said the intent is to create a forward-looking carbon action plan — a process that is expected to span eight to 10 weeks — and include opportunities for community feedback.

“The goal is to create a plan that will have realistic, achievable and implementable strategies to achieve carbon footprint reduction goals,” Brown said.

A progress report on current efforts 

In addition to approving the Keramida contract, Brown and other District 203 administrators discussed with the board of education other ongoing sustainability efforts that have been taking place in recent years.

Some of District 203’s sustainability goals, such as roof replacements, would not be visible to the casual observer.

“All of our new roofing projects comply with — or in most cases, exceed — federal energy code minimums,” Brown said. “All new roofing is white or very light colored membranes to improve solar reflectivity, extend service life and reduce solar-derived heat build-up under the roof deck.”

Other goals have been more publicized and will be notable as they go online in the near future. The gradual, consistent electrification of buses and driver’s ed vehicles are examples.

“We’ve purchased four EV driver’s ed cars at the two high schools — we did that in the summer of 2022 — and four EV buses for transportation in this budget year,” Brown said. “We just received word … that two of the three chargers have been commissioned, and are ready to be put in service. That means the buses should be ready to roll in the very near future.”

Superintendent Dan Bridges said the first of the electric buses should be operational after spring break. Details on the purchase of other EV-powered buses are anticipated in the near future.

“We’ll be updating the board of education on that soon,” Bridges said.

What the board had to say

Members of District 203’s board of education were overwhelmingly supportive of the Keramida contract and the broader goals in place.

“This is something we’ve talked about for years, so I’m super thrilled that we have made the progress that we have,” board member Donna Wandke said.

School Board President Kristine Gericke said the sustainability plan is an example of how District 203 has been proactive and forward-looking.

“We haven’t let anything go, to the point where we have to make a big expense. We’ve done those little incremental things, like when there’s better windows, we put in better windows,” Gericke said. “Now, it feels like we’re getting this to the next level. I just appreciate that cycle of constant improvement — we don’t let anything fall by the wayside.”

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