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Shaheen visits Spaulding for lesson in energy

ROCHESTER - Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-Madbury, joined school officials, energy experts and lawmakers Monday on a tour of Spaulding High School's underbelly.

The group examined the school's newest additions - a set of superefficient boilers - before adjourning to a classroom to talk to environmental science students.

Jordan Institute Executive Director Dick Henry cited a study by his organization, which found that Rochester's schools are among the most energy efficient in the state. He noted it is one of the few districts in the state meeting the U.S. Energy Star Rating requirements.

"Rochester schools are really some of the best we've seen," he said.

The school district is close to completing the second of a three-phase energy usage overhaul started in the early 1990s. Buildings have been updated, with new windows and ventilation systems, while lights have been replaced with low-watt bulbs and most of the heating systems have been updated.

"If we're going to compete with the rest of the world, we're going to need to do the kinds of things you've been doing here," Shaheen told the gathering, which included students. "I have been hearing about the improvements the schools in Rochester have been making and it's exciting."

She said energy efficiency is the fastest way to deal with the country's growing energy needs and added that lowering the demand for foreign oil was a matter of national security.

Students posed questions to the panel, including one inquiry about the kind of jobs that green initiatives could produce.

Shaheen said there would be an increased need for engineers, as well as new technology jobs, and stressed they would be the types of jobs that would not be outsourced to foreign countries.

Henry added that the new jobs being created now were just "scratching the surface" of possible future careers.

Shaheen told the students to talk to their parents about new $1,500 tax credits being made available through economic stimulus funding for home improvements such as window replacement.

Students finished off the discussions with tallies for the amount of recycling the school completed last year. One student told the panel that in paper alone, Spaulding had recycled the equivalent of four elephants.

"I prefer to have that measured," Shaheen joked back, "in donkeys."