The Robstown school district has adopted an energy consumption reduction plan in the wake of rising electrical costs to preserve natural energy resources, improve the district's operational efficiency, and eliminate unnecessary energy expenditures.

The school board unanimously adopted the plan Nov. 13 with the goal of reducing annual electrical consumption by 5 percent for each of the next six fiscal years, or an overall reduction of 30 percent.

The school district's recent electric bills have averaged about $162,000 a month, said superintendent Roberto Garcia.

"Because of the energy increase in the city by the utility board, we have faced $30,000 to $40,000 monthly increases in utility bills," Garcia said. "That is substantial and that's maintaining our kilowatt energy usage."

The energy reduction plan includes implementing efficient lighting systems, solar-electric generation panels, efficient appliance purchases, vending machine operating controls, and general maintenance and operations revisions.

Implementation of the plan at each of the school district's facilities and around all campuses is the joint responsibility of the school board, administrators, staff and support personnel.

The energy plan includes recording the metered amount of electricity, water or natural gas consumed by the school district and the cost of the utilities. The school district committed to reporting the information on the Internet or another publicly accessible location.

The school board had a provocative discussion about electrical costs at last month's school board meeting after an energy audit by Richard Garcia of Robstown Utility Systems Electric Department and Abraham Arevalo, director of safety programs for RISD.

Electric rates of Robstown Utility Systems have increased about 30 percent in recent months.

Richard Garcia suggested ending year-round school for a nine-month school year instead. Eliminating classes for 2 1/2 months in the summer would save the school district at least $300,000, he said.

"For every month that you use the facilities, you're looking at about $180,000 a month," Richard Garcia said at the Oct. 9 school board meeting.

Roberto Garcia said school leaders would need to go out into the community and seek input before school leaders would suggest reverting to a nine-month school calendar.

"As of now, there is nothing on the table as far as that goes," the superintendent said last week.

Another option suggested was consolidating classes and leaving vacant as many classes and buildings as possible.

"We're doing that already with our intersessions," Roberto Garcia said last week. "We're consolidating classes already at one or two campuses. We want to continue the services to students, but we want to conserve energy and we ask the public to support us in these efforts."

A third option proposed was closing schools earlier in the day.

Roberto Garcia said Richard Garcia's recommendations were "bold" and "made you think."

"As superintendent, these are things that we really need to consider," Roberto Garcia said.

He said the school board and the community needed to consider the options and choose a direction, while implementing energy reductions to help the school district save money.

Garcia said many of the school district's buildings were constructed in the 1940s and taking money from the district's fund balance to overhaul buildings was "putting dollars into old buildings."