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West Jordan Journal

High school’s lessons impact the environment

Jul 01, 2022 11:39AM ● By Jet Burnham

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Last month, 122 students graduated from Itineris Early College High School with more than just a high school education. Many had also earned an associate’s degree and scholarships (the class’s combined total in scholarships was $4.4 million.) But the most unique education they left with were the lessons in environmental sustainability.

The IECHS campus has solar panels, an electric car charging station, a garden and water-wise landscaping.

One of the core principles of Itineris’ mission is civic responsibility, the reason why the school has become a model of sustainability. The school building was constructed energy efficiently eight years ago. Through multiple grants and initiatives, further improvements have been made.

A solar power project, funded by a $109,000 grant from Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky customers, was completed this spring. Solar panels cover two-thirds of the school roof to provide 50% of the building’s electrical needs. The school also reduces their energy consumption through participation in a program to slow the electricity draw on the HVAC unit during high demand times.

“I really want us, as a school, to be a role model for the community of what environmental sustainability could look like,” Itineris Director of Students and Facilities Jeff Bossard said.

Students, staff and community members have been involved in many of the projects, such as removing 1,400 sq ft of grass and 50 sprinkler heads from the property. Using a grant from the West Jordan Water Conservancy, more xeriscaping is taking place this summer.

In 2021, National Honors Society members headed a project to build planter boxes with drip irrigation systems. The hope is to use them to grow vegetables that can be used in the cafeteria’s salad bar. For now, the environmental science and biology classes will use the garden as part of their curriculum.

Science teacher Rob Machol said the school’s planter boxes and solar projects will be part of the discussion during the unit on the importance of sustainable urban planning. He previously used the solar panels on his home for illustration but is looking forward to using data from the school this coming year.

“It will be awesome to be able to look at what, I assume, will be a massive amount of voltage coming from the top of our school,” Machol said.

Machol’s masters degree is in environmental science modeling, so he incorporates modeling in his classes.

“We teach a lot about renewable vs. nonrenewable in environmental science,” he said. “We talk a whole lot about climate change and greenhouse gas emissions and what we need to do based on various models.”

Faculty members are excited about the environmentally-friendly building, especially those, like Machol and Lisa Hammonds, who drive electric cars.

“We have a little Nissan Leaf and the [electric car] chargers went in right before gas prices started going up, so it's really been a lifesaver for us just on teacher’s income,” Hammonds said. “I love that we have chargers there and I love that they are being powered by solar. I love that our school is ecologically minded.”

Students, staff and community members will continue to work on projects to reduce the school’s impact on the environment. In the future, Bossard hopes to add additional solar panels to the patio on the south side of the building.

Bossard said the students who have been involved in the conservation and environmentally-friendly projects have learned about the effect individuals can have on the environment and simple changes they can make.

“I call it planting a seed that you hope grows into people who make decisions that are good for the environment and also lead others to do the same,” he said.