An Arkansas faculty district turned power financial savings from photo voltaic panels into instructor raises

BATESVILLE, Ark. – There are over 1,400 solar panels in front of Batesville High School. The panels supply seven different school grounds, but what is collected there is much more than just electricity.

This technology helps hardworking teachers like Jeanne Roepcke give more to their students. Roepcke has taught her entire career in this school district after graduating from the same high school years ago.

“I started elementary school, went to middle school, and now I’m in high school and my husband jokes that one day they will graduate me as a top graduate,” laughed Roepcke.

Her days are full of the morning announcements to the last bell and then she goes on.

“Like many, many teachers today, I have a second job,” she said.

Although she loves her part-time job at her community center, it takes a toll.

“Having to work in the evening or choosing a second job is very stressful. It is very difficult to work here all day and go to another job in the afternoon and you know you work there and then go back late Comes home, “she explained.

Thanks to the energy-saving technology outside of their classroom, the district has now been able to give all teachers a raise. It is news that she could not believe at first.

“Well, when you hear something like,” A solar panel initiative is coming to your district, “and the huge sums of money it will cost your district, the first thing you think is,” Oh my gosh! That’s a lot of money! How will that ever pay off in the district? ‘”she wondered.

Fortunately, it was very worth it. The district used money from a loan to reduce energy bills in all seven schools in Batesville. They worked with energy company Entegrity to conduct an energy audit to find out where green practices could save the district money.

They installed energy efficient lights and insulated buildings to store the heat, and the solar panels were the final piece of the project.

“We can cut our monthly bill from around $ 17,000 a month to around $ 4,000,” said Megan Renihan of the Batesville School District.

Now all of the energy the panels collect becomes a loan to the electricity company, saving about a point and five million dollars to put back in the teachers’ pockets.

For Roepcke, the elevation took a heavy burden off her shoulders.

“I don’t work on my second job until the weekend, so it definitely saved a lot of time. I feel like a better teacher. I’m fresher and more energetic.” said Roepcke.

This project also helped her son make the choice to teach just a few classes from his mother. Talon Roepcke is now an art teacher and baseball coach at Batesville High School.

“It’s just nice to know that I can stay here and make the money I need,” said Roepcke.

The schools in Batesville were the penultimate in the northern Arkansas region for teacher salaries, and now they pay the highest of any five local counties.

“We got a school choice in the state of Arkansas, which meant that not only did our students choose a different campus, but our teachers too. By improving the raise in our area, these teachers have been attracted and kept our students best training, “said Renihan.

An education that will soon have a green energy curriculum for students.

“It’s something I might want to learn about. It actually sounds educational and like something I could use,” said 10th grader Beau Bledsoe.

The students know that this project can also offer something to their teachers.

“They work hard for us to teach us so I’m very happy for them,” said ninth grader Alexander Tenace.

But in the end, teachers with that special heart are happiest when helping their students, not themselves.

“It’s wonderful to have this new initiative and to make more money, but to be honest I would still have been here because I want to be here,” said Roepcke. “Here is my heart. The students make it so important to me.”

With this spirit of togetherness, Roepcke knows that her school, like her mascot, the pioneer, will propel her and her students into the future by thinking green in order to give green for future generations.

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