In 2012, the Lady Bird Johnson Middle School in Irving made history by becoming the largest net zero school in the nation.
In 2014, when the Coppell ISD’s Richard J. Lee Elementary School opens its doors for the first time for students, it will be the first net zero elementary school in Texas.
Chantel Renea Kastrounis, who has been named principal for the new school, explained, “Net zero means that if our school is operated in the way that it is built and designed that the total amount of energy used by the building on an annual basis is about equal to the amount of renewable energy our building creates.”
“We will capture energy through solar panels on the roof and heat and cool the building through geothermal means. Daylight harvesting and water recapture for irrigation and toilet flushing will be utilized.”
Being a net zero school is not the only way in which Lee Elementary will be unique, or at least highly unusual.
“We will be aiming for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification and will use the school as a tool for learning inside and outside of classrooms,” the principal said. “Our learners will be grouped in five K-5 vertical houses throughout the building where there are flexible uses of space and furnishings. Five collabs are in each house where learners can work together to learn from one another in small groups.
“Digital displays will showcase learner projects. We have a second story outdoor learning pavilion, six planting beds, an outdoor atrium area, an ecopond, and a water cistern that will provide learning opportunities for children to discover their ecological impact on the world.”
“The furniture will be on wheels that will allow learners flexible uses of the spaces. Ergonomic chairs, beanbags, clustering of tables and chairs will create environments both inside classrooms and around the building that foster collaboration and communication with one another.”
Although located in Dallas, Lee Elementary is a part of the Coppell Independent School District and will serve mostly students who live in the Valley Ranch section of Irving.
Kastrounis, who was assistant principal at Cottonwood Creek Elementary School in Coppell before being named principal at Lee, said the staff for Lee is complete, with 42 employees.
About 500 students have enrolled, with the first day of school set for Aug. 25.