In July of 2018, Dr. John-Mark Cain began his tenure as Superintendent for Lauderdale County School District (LCSD) by visiting each of the twelve schools. During his assessment, he noticed flickering lights, old mechanical units, a few broken windows, and the most glaring detail: the minimal security at each school. Addressing these issues was crucial, as Dr. Cain knew from experience that students’ comfort and safety directly correlate with their academic success. Unfortunately, the District’s financial circumstances made it difficult to fund a capital project of this magnitude.
After investigating a variety of options, Dr. Cain saw the value in leveraging an energy savings-based Performance Contract to get the upfront funding necessary to make comprehensive improvements without jeopardizing the District’s fund balance. LCSD analyzed multiple energy savings companies’ qualifications and conducted interviews, ultimately selecting Entegrity’s low-cost approach and expertise in engineering and construction.
Entegrity completed a utility-rate analysis and benchmarking early in the design process to provide an initial understanding of the District’s energy profile and potential areas of waste. Our analysts and engineers inspected all lighting and mechanical systems during on-site walkthroughs, finding approximately 11,000 incandescent and fluorescent light fixtures and 30 HVAC units past useful life. After documenting and analyzing existing conditions, the Entegrity team worked with major stakeholders to tailor the project to LCSD’s operational and financial goals. The final scope included energy improvements like LED lighting, HVAC upgrades, and a 223.7 kW solar array, as well as water conservation improvements that cut District water and sewer costs by 23%.
We knew that a project that aimed to upgrade over 1,000,000 square feet would have goals outside of energy savings. We identified priorities from stakeholders across the District and School Board to implement in addition to the energy upgrades. The Administration wanted to address safety concerns while visibly demonstrating the improvements to students, teachers, and parents. To reach these goals, we added measures like new windows, drop ceilings to conceal exposed wiring, and security measures including security cameras, access control, and fencing to LCSD’s scope.
Access control was installed in 99 locations throughout Lauderdale County School District. We electrified the panic devices and installed electric strikes to ensure the new locking systems would operate during emergencies such as a fire or power outage. The final system, called the S2 Netbox System, has capabilities to allow the District to grow and remain secure.
Lauderdale County School District’s video surveillance effort was upgraded to 500 cameras (389 new and 111 existing) with the capability to pan/zoom, record at night with infrared, and catch long-range footage. We equipped the system with Panasonic Security’s Video Insight VMS Software for straightforward management and unlimited scalability.
The District also received eight automated gates. Since four of LCSD’s older campuses were open to the public, we placed interior storefront double doors with access control at the campus entries to keep visitors in a secure location until they check in. Each interior catch area includes a glass transaction window. Here, LCSD Staff obtain visitors’ IDs through a locked glass and run them through the Raptor System, a visitor management system that checks for sex offenders, non-custodial parents, or family members not permitted to access a student.
Clarkdale Elementary School’s Attendance Center, located in the middle of campus, presented a challenge. Visitors had to cross school grounds for check-in, and parents had to drive through campus for drop-off and pick-up. To solve this issue, we installed fencing at the Attendance Center and took security a step further by transforming a classroom into a new entrance. This new access point includes an interior corridor complete with access control to the campus, a transaction window, a storefront entry, and a concrete platform with an ADA compliant handicap ramp and steel awning. The project funds even supported the addition of a new asphalt parking lot with 40 new parking spaces and two lanes for drop-off and pick-up.
At the beginning of the project, the District considered utilizing a tax increase (a voter-supported bond issue) to fund the upgrades. After all, school districts have limited options for funding a capital improvement project, and Dr. Cain did not want to increase the District’s millage rate, go out for a public vote on a bond issue, or deplete the District Fund Balance. LCSD ultimately decided a Tax-Exempt Lease Purchase was the best route to gain access to comprehensive improvements across the District. The District acquired a loan for $10,000,000 over 16 years at 2.36%. Entegrity also aided the District in obtaining a $250,000 grant to implement a solar array at Northeast Middle School.
Lauderdale County School District is saving well beyond the guaranteed amount of approximately $570,000 a year. After the success of the energy savings project, the District engaged Entegrity to aid in the design and implementation of the new Career and Technology Education Center that will offer a solar installation training facility. LCSD is partnering with Meridian Community College to offer dual enrollment credits for this solar program. Entegrity is investigating the potential for the Career and Technology Education Center to become the first Net Zero Certified Building in the State of Mississippi.