The Warren County Public School District in Kentucky has become a leader in innovative approaches to energy, facilities, and experiential education. But you don’t become the state’s most energy-efficient district by not embracing innovation and out-of-the-box thinking.

At the K12 Facilities Forum, Chris McIntyre, the CFO/COO and Construction Supervisor of the district, delved into the strategies behind their achievements. These initiatives have not only reduced expenses and enhanced sustainability but have also fostered an engaging and dynamic learning environment for students.

Over the past two decades, the district's endeavors have yielded remarkable outcomes. Warren County Schools has realized substantial cost savings and constructed new facilities at a cost well below the state's average per square foot. Additionally, they've achieved an impressive 15 EUI (energy use per square foot).

To delve deeper into the district's sustainability achivements, watch the full presentation below.


The district's strategies cover three key areas:

Energy efficiency in school buildings

  • Built the first Net Zero school in US (Richardsville Elementary) in 2008, featuring solar panels and compact design to minimize energy use. This pioneered a new approach to school construction in the district.
  • Implemented a $30 million energy savings retrofit program across the district starting in 2017. Officials also upgraded HVAC systems, installed geothermal systems, and replaced lighting with LEDs. This enabled older schools built from the 1930s-1960s to dramatically cut energy usage.
  • Cut the district's overall EUI nearly in half from 38 to 24 over 5 years. This was driven by new construction techniques and deep retrofits. The result? The district ranked #1 in Kentucky for energy efficiency.
  • New elementary schools are operating at 15 EUI, compared to the state average of 33. This was achieved through efficient architectural designs and advanced mechanical systems. This effort demonstrated huge potential for savings.
  • Implemented various no-cost initiatives to reduce energy usage further, like controlling lights/temperatures and restricting window openings. Emphasizes operations and engagement.

Designing modern school facilities

  • Incorporated flexible seating on casters, hardwood floors, and design themes in new buildings to create inspiring spaces with a focus on creating flexible design configurations.
  • Moved to non-operable windows from 4" to 0" openings to better control the indoor environment and prevent issues like teachers opening windows. This improves comfort and efficiency.
  • The use of durable/sustainable materials like hemp wood and terrazzo flooring in hallways to increase lifespan and reduce maintenance. This created healthy, long-lasting, durable buildings.
  • Building two-story schools that are ~68% the size of the state formula for enrollment. These designs maximize the usage of space which enhances sustainability.
  • Blended historic and modern features like original wood floors and Lego block walls. This provides visual connections to the past and a fun, pleasant aesthetic.

Engaging students through innovative learning models

  • Opening a specialized center focused on project-based learning to boost engagement among 7-12th graders, with the district bringing in community partners to teach real-world content and skills. For instance, civil engineers teaching about their field.
  • Creating a "Leader in Me" program that develops leadership and life skills in multiple schools. Utilizes proven framework to empower students.
  • Emphasizing hands-on, experiential learning opportunities to connect high school students with local jobs and careers, such as mentorships.
  • Leveraging partners like Logitech to provide cutting-edge technology access. Allows students to build skills on industry-leading tools and technologies.

    This article was written with the assistance of AI and edited by an influence group team member. 

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This article was written by AI and edited by a member of the influence group team.

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