A Bright Energy Future for Salem-Keizer School District


The Salem-Keizer School District is educating the next generation of Oregonians in the mid-Willamette Valley. Thanks to strong leadership and a commitment to sustainability, the state’s second largest school district is more energy-efficient than ever.

Salem, OR — More than 40,000 young Oregonians attend 65 schools in the growing Salem-Keizer School District. Covering parts of Marion and Polk counties, the district’s student population is as diverse as the communities around it – nearly one in five students are English language learners, and more than half are from communities of color.

The district has a rich history dating back to 1855, and a few of Salem-Keizer’s oldest school buildings are still standing. Unfortunately, older buildings often mean drafty windows, inefficient heating and cooling, and seismic concerns.

Sustainable Schools

Salem Keizer Schools 018With a booming population and an aging infrastructure, Salem-Keizer turned to the ballot in 2008 – and local voters passed a $244 million bond focused on improving school buildings and adding four new schools.

In addition to making the much-needed building improvements, district leaders made a commitment to increasing energy-efficiency at the same time. With guidance from the Oregon Department of Energy, Salem-Keizer School District was able to leverage additional funds from the SB 1149 public purpose charge to install energy-saving systems in its schools. “Since 2008, we have spent more than $7.5 million in SB 1149 funds in our schools,” said Salem-Keizer Utilities Coordinator David Furr.

Historic Highland

Salem Keizer Schools 014Highland Elementary School in Northeast Salem dates back to 1910, and the traditional brick building serves about 370 students on three floors. The century-old building needed serious seismic upgrades, so the district used bond dollars to build a new steel infrastructure inside the building – kind of like replacing its skeleton.

With the new skeleton came an opportunity to replace the building’s heating and cooling system. The district re-plumbed the building and added a new $490,000 hydronic system, which circulates water in pipes around the building to distribute heat. The efficient system also uses a new digital control system, which gives staff better control and scheduling capabilities for the system. “Thanks to high tech controls, the building sees far fewer temperature swings and an improved learning environment,” shared David Furr.

Salem-Keizer’s Future

Salem Keizer Schools 007As a certified Sustainable Building Advisor with a strong energy background, David managed the SB 1149 building upgrades across the district. “In addition to the new system at Highland, we completed energy projects at more than 50 schools with the help of SB 1149 funding,” said David. New windows, better insulation, new boilers, efficient lighting, weatherization, and other improvements will help Salem-Keizer serve students for the next 160 years.

After 15 years of school district service, David’s next project is his well-earned retirement.

Supporting Oregon Schools

The Oregon Department of Energy has been serving Oregon public schools statewide for more than 40 years. From providing efficiency expertise to supporting energy projects, we help our schools create improved learning environments for Oregon students.

This story originally appeared on the Oregon Department of Energy’s blogLearn more about ODOE’s work with schools.

About Author

Jenny serves as Communications Director at the Oregon Department of Energy, which is leading Oregon to a safe, equitable, clean, and sustainable energy future.

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