San Diego Jewish Academy (SDJA), a pluralistic community K-12 school with a thriving early childhood center, marked a major milestone in the school’s ambitious Sustainability Initiative (SI) with the beginning of staging for its 800-kW solar project, further placing the school on the road to self sustainability.
“SDJA’s vision of an ambitious, forward looking Sustainability Initiative is part of our strategic efforts to become both environmentally sustainable, and become even stronger financially,” said Zvi Weiss, head of school. “The initiative is a direct reflection of our Jewish value, bal tashchit, to protect the earth.”
The project includes the installation of solar panels on most of the school’s building rooftops, as well as on newly constructed carports in its Upper School parking lot. When completed in March 2021, and with the addition of a large energy storage system on campus, SDJA will save approximately $400,000 annually by generating its own electricity. Additionally, the project design includes a roadmap to develop the SDJA campus into a microgrid, whereby SDJA would become completely self-sufficient in meeting its energy requirements. While some college campuses have achieved this, SDJA is not aware of any independent school in the U.S. that has, placing SDJA at the forefront.
“As part of the SI, we plan to garner designation as a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School,” said Michael Zimerman, SDJA’s chief sustainability officer (CSO). “In addition to reducing environmental impacts and costs, and improving the health and wellness of our students, the Green Ribbon designation also entails environmental and sustainability educational programming. We envision our SDJA students learning the technology and operating the controls of the eventual micro-grid on our campus, with the goal of becoming the first K-12 independent school to install a fully self-sufficient micro-grid, along with many other great educational experiences.”
SDJA’s Sustainability Initiative has included many innovative, historical and creative steps, including the creation of SDJA’s current home, the 56-acre Jaffe Campus, which provides the fundamental platform to develop the SI, and the September 2019 appointment of Zimerman as the schools CSO to liaise with school leadership, employees, suppliers, parents, students and the broader community to address sustainability. SDJA is one of the only, if not the only, K-12 schools nationwide with a CSO.
“This initiative brings together so many aspects of the SDJA learning and community experience—our school garden, the value of repairing the world (Tikkun Olam), student wellness and nutrition, sustainable entrepreneurialism, and collaborations with other local organizations,” adds Weiss. “There will be many opportunities for student, staff and parent engagement on our journey to sustainability.”
News item from the San Diego Jewish Academy