Herald JournalHerald Journal, Sept. 15, 2003

Area schools close early as part of energy saving program

By Ryan Gueningsman

It may not be a "snow" day, but it works the same.

Many local schools closed their doors early last Monday after Xcel Energy requested those schools who participate in an energy saving program to cut back their energy consumption for the day.

The temperature reached a high in the 90s, which normally wouldn't require cutbacks, but a downed boiler in Becker warranted a call out to schools and businesses for help, said Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted Supt. George Ladd.

Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted (HLWW) has been in the program more than 10 years; Lester Prairie Schools has also been in the program for more than 10 years.

Schools that participate on an "as needed" basis receive lower energy rates, said Lester Prairie High School Principal Joe Miller.

"They generate lower rates overall if we reduce energy consumption on high demand days," said Lester Prairie Schools Supt. James Redfield.

The agreement the schools have with Xcel is to cut energy when asked, Ladd said.

"It is a definite savings for the district," Ladd said.

Dassel-Cokato School District chose to keep the students in school because the administration felt that parents may not have a back-up plan in place as to day care, said Supt. Dr. Don Hainlen.

"We participate in the program; however, we chose not to send students home," he said.

For not helping to save energy that day, the district will concur a fine of anywhere from $1,000 to $2,000.

"The primary issue was safety and supervision," he said. "We felt that this early in the year, parents may not have arrangements made yet."

This is the first time during this school year that schools were called upon to conserve energy.

Area schools had several days throughout the summer that they were only in operation for a half of a day, Redfield said.

"In the summer time, it's easier to work around it," he said.

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