Durham, North Carolina is booming! Recognized as America’s eighth leading high-tech metro area and one of the best cities in which to begin a career, the city is growing in population, area, and prestige. This overall growth is paralleled by growth in K-12 school enrollment. The Durham Public Schools district has 53 schools, more than 34,000 students, 2243 teachers, and 4697 employees. It is no surprise, then, that DPS is one of North Carolina’s largest school districts.
DPS considers it their privilege and duty to provide all of their students with “an outstanding education.” They do so by offering a variety of learning options including traditional schools, magnet programs, year-round calendar schools, and small specialty high schools. DPS also has robust Academically and Intellectually Gifted Student programs, Exceptional Children programs, and even a partnership with Duke Children’s Hospital that allows chronically ill and hospitalized children to continue their education. With this wealth of learning opportunities, it is no wonder DPS has been nationally recognized for school, student, and teacher excellence.
In 2008, the DPS administration began noticing other trends within their district—increasing energy and utility costs, and decreasing reliability of some of the schools’ HVAC and mechanical systems. Of particular concern was the inconsistent indoor environment at some schools due to poor temperature control, poor lighting, and noise from mechanical system components.
The district dug deeper to identify the specific drivers of these trends, and they soon realized that aging equipment and systems were the source of the problems. They created a priority list of six schools at which upgrades were needed, and used the State procurement process to solicit proposals from qualified firms. DPS knew they would need a creative solution to fund the improvements because they were part of the nationwide trend of decreasing state and local revenues.
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