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School district is national green ribbon finalist

Staff Photo: Frank Reddy Gwinnett County Public Schools was honored this week as a Green Ribbon school district. According to a news release from the Georgia Department of Education, GCPS was selected for the accolade because of its efforts to design, build, maintain and operate for energy efficiency. The district boasts 125 ENERGY STAR certified schools. In this archived photo, a GCPS employee installs an ENERGY STAR plaque at Margaret Winn Holt Elementary.

Staff Photo: Frank Reddy Gwinnett County Public Schools was honored this week as a Green Ribbon school district. According to a news release from the Georgia Department of Education, GCPS was selected for the accolade because of its efforts to design, build, maintain and operate for energy efficiency. The district boasts 125 ENERGY STAR certified schools. In this archived photo, a GCPS employee installs an ENERGY STAR plaque at Margaret Winn Holt Elementary.

SUWANEE -- For the energy-efficiency efforts of Gwinnett County Public Schools, state officials this week selected the local district to represent Georgia among competitors for the 2013 National Green Ribbon Schools.

According to a news release from the Georgia Department of Education, Georgia's largest school district got the distinction due to its 23 million square feet of ENERGY STAR-certified space. GCPS leads the nation for k-12 certified building space. The buildings use 35-percent less energy, generate 35-percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions and cost up to 40 cents less per square foot to operate than similar buildings across the country.

In addition, the district has completed several energy efficient upgrades of their facilities including lighting retrofits in classrooms, occupancy sensors, automated energy management systems, water source heat pumps and variable frequency drives.

"In Gwinnett, we take pride in being a leader instructionally and operationally," said CEO and Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks. "On the operations side, it is critical that we make good business decisions and assess our practices against industry standards. I am pleased with the strides we have been able to make in terms of energy efficiency ... strides that have led to nearly all of our eligible schools earning the ENERGY STAR rating."

The national energy performance rating is a benchmark that helps energy managers assess how efficiently their buildings use energy, relative to similar buildings nationwide.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said the state is "proud to once again support outstanding schools that implement groundbreaking tools to reduce their energy costs. In these challenging times, school systems across the state continue to embrace these innovative ideas to reduce costs and focus resources on the classrooms where students learn."

The Green Ribbon designation is through a partnership involving the Georgia Department of Education, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, the U.S. Green Building Council of Georgia, Georgia EPD, the Clean Air Campaign and the Turner Foundation.

Wilbanks said he is "extremely proud of the work our schools do to help our students become good environmental stewards of resources."

The U.S. Department of Education will announce national winners in April during Earth Day Week and will host a national recognition award ceremony in Washington D.C. in June. The winner of the national award gets $10,000.