Student to Student
February 12, 2008
The students at Park City High School have been putting up with construction for years, some of them since elementary school. "The construction never stops," says Kari Lonczak, a senior at Park City High School who has been enduring renovations nearly her entire school experience.
"Honestly, it doesn’t even faze me anymore because I’ve been around it for so long," says Justin Altman, another senior at PCHS.
A big part of the construction was aimed at making the building more environmentally friendly. The school’s new design follows the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) criteria, guidelines for energy- and resource-efficient buildings. But did it happen?
The landscaping was "xeriscaping," a landscape designed to use a minimum amount of water. Lights are supposed to be motion-sensitive, so that they turn off automatically when no one is around. Devices have been installed by the windows with the idea of reflecting light into the classrooms to conserve electricity.
These are all great ideas, cost-effective and environmentally friendly. But do the systems implemented actually live up to the professed standard?
The administration is sure to have a lot on its plate at the moment, but many students and even faculty members have trouble understanding some of the policies at the school.
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One recent issue that evoked some concern was the fact that Park City High School’s "motion-sensor lights" were never actually off.
Even after many concerns have been voiced on behalf of environmentally conscious students, parents and community members, nothing seems to have changed. The lights still burn 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"It’s ridiculous," says Lonczak. "I don’t understand how, if that’s a problem that has been brought up multiple times, and it’s a valid problem, no one seems to really be doing anything about it."
At first, it was speculated that there simply was no "off" switch. "They’re just like, ‘Oh, that’s how it is, they can’t turn it off,’" Lonczak mimics the most common response to questioning of the schools’ light policy. "That doesn’t make sense, because there’s a source to every energy supply" which can be cut off.
Many students were feeling frustrated with the slow-moving corrections of the school’s environmental short-comings. This is a big part of what drove PCHS junior Dolly Duke to found the school’s Environmental Club.
The club focuses on environmental issues at the high school as well as around the community. Last Thursday, several board members went to a school district meeting in which the issue of the lights was addressed.
"The superintendent [Ray Timothy] was accommodating," Alex Quitiquit, board member of the Environmental Club, acknowledges. "He recognized what we were doing, but it’s that whole bureaucratic thing that’s stopping our cause from going anywhere." Quitiquit alludes to the miles and miles of red tape through which one must cut to get anything done in a complicated governmental system such as that of the public school.
Superintendent Timothy is quoted in the Salt Lake Tribune as having said, "We see energy efficiency as an easy first step to a larger commitment to environmental sustainability by Park City School District." He clearly sees the value in environmentalism, but action is more difficult in such a complicated system than it is in an ideal world.
"It’s not necessarily that we’re not trying to do anything about it," says Quitiquit.
And so the lights are on. At 8 p.m. when the last stragglers go home from their after-school functions, at midnight, when absolutely no one is in the building, and at 3:30 a.m. when Chemistry teacher Bill Kahn arrives to make chemical solutions of god-knows-what.
Lately though, it appears that some progress might be made at last.
Park City High School "has been selected to receive a solar power system through the
Bonneville Environmental Foundation’s Solar 4R Schools program, with funding
from Protect Our Winters and Rossignol," according to K. Randy Batchelor, the Renewable Energy Projects Coordinator of Bonneville Environmental Foundation.
When installed, the solar power system could produce 1020 watts of electricity "under Peak Sun conditions," writes Batchelor. "That’s enough power to run 77 energy-efficient light bulbs."
Obviously, this is not the equivalent of all the energy the school needs to run. But it’s a step in the right direction.
Students have been receiving mixed messages as to whether or not the school cares about the environment. Perhaps the intent is there, but the reality is harder to realize.
A major goal of the program is to "break down barriers that inhibit the widespread adoption of renewable energy technology," something the school system desperately needs.