Goleta Union Goes Full Speed Ahead Toward Sustainability

School District’s New Master Plan Incorporates Solar, LED, Bioswales

Credit: Delaney Smith

The Goleta Union School District launched a massive project Wednesday night — the first-ever Facilities Master Plan — with sustainability and climate change at the heart of the plan.

“I have goosebumps right now because this is so symbolic and important,” Superintendent Donna Lewis said. “It is work that has long needed to be done but we haven’t had this guiding document…. With this document, we are going to be able to take Goleta Union School District to the next level.”

The Board of Trustees unanimously adopted the 247-page document without much deliberation; the plan has been in the works for years. Solar energy, solar power storage, e-vehicle charging, exterior LED lighting, and bioswales are all incorporated into the facilities master plan. Although parts of it resemble a similar plan Santa Barbara Unified rolled out last December, GUSD’s plan has more sustainability components unique to them, like the bioswales.

“Bioswales make a lot of sense for this community,” said Conrad Tedeschi, assistant superintendent of administrative services. “To somehow harness all of the rain, when it does come down, and turn it into groundwater instead of it flowing through the storm drains and out into the ocean. This is clear water that can really be used to recharge groundwater.”

The Board’s approval of the Facilities Master Plan is the first action step towards on what has been a long journey toward sustainability. The plan serves to unite all of the districts’ past efforts and future goals into one package.

Nearly a year ago, they formally passed a climate change resolution that recognized the district’s pushes towards sustainability so far, like the food composting program implemented last year that saved thousands of pounds of food waste and packaging from the landfill, or the installation of interior LED lighting in 2011 and low-flush urinals in 2013.

The plan also incorporates an Educational Specifications Plan (Ed Specs) that was adopted last year. It is intended to guide design professionals on the educational and programmatic needs of the district — all 15 properties on 120 acres spanning the Goleta Valley and serving nearly 4,000 students and their families in addition to more than 700 employees. It recommends at least one student design space for STEAM classes in each elementary school, for example.

“I attended some of the input sessions with the parents, and it was great to hear their creativity and also their pragmatism,” Boardmember Luz Reyes-Martin said. “I love that this document has categorized all of these projects.… It is exactly in line with what our goals were and with Ed Specs.”

To see the full Facilities Master Plan, click here. 

“We are not stepping into this blindly,” Board President Sholeh Jahangir said. “We are very well-informed about what the needs of our community are, and I think this shows us that we are leading the future. We are providing a space where future minds will be challenged and enlightened.”

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