The upgrades were paid for by a federal stimulus grant administered by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. The Walker County School System was awarded $304,750 to install timed thermostats, energy-efficient lighting fixtures and sensors that turn lights off when a room is unoccupied.
Johnna Baker, director of human resources for the county schools, said the district was one of only 10 school systems in the state to be awarded grant money for the upgrades. The project was a collaboration between several county schools staff members and outside companies, she said.
"This has been a team effort across the board," she said.
Baker said a major collaborator to the project was Ingenuity, Inc., a company that evaluated projects that would qualify for the grant and helped the county school write the grant application.
"We have worked very hard to maximize these dollars," said Ingenuity spokesman Jim Doyle in a press release. "This is a rare opportunity that will benefit the schools for the next 15 years. We wanted to make sure every dollar was used in a way that impacted the greatest number of schools."
Darrell Waid, assistant supervisor for maintenance and transportation for the county schools, said 404 programmable thermostats and 669 light sensors were installed in the 15 schools.
The new equipment was installed by Hattaway Brothers of Vernon. Baker said the company completed the project on time and approximately $67,000 under budget.
Assistant Superintendent Alan Trotter said after a Board of Education meeting last month that school officials hope to use leftover grant money to purchase air-conditioning units for schools like Curry Middle School. However, ADECA must approve such use of grant money, Baker said.
The county school district's grant was part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and was awarded by Gov. Bob Riley in November of 2009.
ADECA's Energy Division administered $52 million in grants for 27 projects similar to Walker County Schools' upgrades.
The grants are part of the State Energy Program, which aims to improve energy efficiency in schools and prisons as well as offer low-interest loans to businesses making energy-saving renovations.