First “Net-Zero” Energy School Named After Former DOE Deputy Chancellor Grimm

  • Posted: Thu Oct 22, 2015 Updated: Fri Apr 20, 2018

New Kathleen Grimm School for Leadership and Sustainability at Sandy Ground will produce as much energy as it consumes. State-of-the-art design will teach students about conservation, sustainability and the importance of protecting the environment

NEW YORK – Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña joined students, families, staff and local officials today to dedicate the city’s new “net-zero” energy school to the late Kathleen Grimm, a former Deputy Chancellor at the DOE whose vision and dedication helped make the school a reality. 

The Kathleen Grimm School of Leadership and Sustainability at Sandy Ground, or PS 62, is housed in a brand-new, uniquely designed 68,000-square-foot building that will generate energy with over 2,000 photovoltaic solar panels, a wind turbine, heating and cooling systems powered by underground geothermal wells and a host of other clean energy features. 

The school building serves as a hands-on learning laboratory for its students, allowing educators to integrate their surroundings into lessons about sustainability, innovation and the importance of preserving and protecting our environment. Some of the building’s features, such as its energy use dashboards, can be woven directly into the science, math and even writing curricula. 

With skylights and reflective ceiling panels angled to maximize natural light, motion-sensor energy-efficient indoor lighting, as well as a specially designed precast concrete building envelope which acts as a rain screen, the school uses 50 percent less energy than a typical school building. 

This building is designed to produce as much energy as it consumes and will be the first “net-zero” school east of the Mississippi River. Designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, the building is oriented on its 3.5-acre property to maximize exposure to the sun, with its south façade sloped at 70 degrees. Daylight will provide 90 percent of the light on the south side of the building, 60 percent on the north side and up to 75 percent to interior spaces such as the gymnasium and cafeteria. The green roof will reduce heat and underground tanks will collect precipitation and prevent runoff. 

“What a wonderful way to honor Kathleen’s legacy, her tremendous leadership and her unwavering commitment to the students she served,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “Everything is a teachable moment and with this net-zero energy building, students will have a hands-on opportunity to learn about sustainability and to draw lessons that will serve them their whole lives.” 

Kathleen Grimm, the building’s namesake, was a tireless advocate for New York City’s schoolchildren, serving as Deputy Chancellor for Operations at the DOE from 2002 until her retirement earlier this year. Grimm was a well-loved and respected public servant and the new school is the realization of a vision she articulated – and worked hard to achieve – during her tenure at DOE. 

The Grimm Family said, “Our sister Kathleen was a fearless champion of education and helping children. She inspired so many others to accomplish so much. Naming this school the Kathleen Grimm School for Leadership and Sustainability is a tribute that would have meant so much to her as an entire city recognizes the enormous impact she had. We are so grateful to those who made this day possible. We take comfort in knowing her legacy will be marked by both bricks and mortar and by the great achievements of the children who will attend this remarkable school.” 

“Having known and worked so closely with Kathleen, I can think of no honor more fitting than to name this state-of-the-art, highly innovative new school for her,” said Deputy Chancellor Elizabeth Rose. “She was passionate about using all of the tools we have to educate children and by helping to create this impressive model for sustainability, she leaves a legacy that will benefit not only students at this school but throughout our city.” 

“This first net-zero energy school is a shining example of what we can accomplish when we focus on sustainability and energy efficiency,” said School Construction Authority President Lorraine Grillo. “We are constantly searching for new and creative ways to build greener buildings and advance our effort to improve the environment. I am proud to see those efforts realized and I am proud that this building will be named for one of the great champions of our schools.” 

“This school shows what can be done when we integrate energy goals with educational goals and sound design,” said Nilda Mesa, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. “As a city, we will learn from this school how to build better buildings that will get us closer to our goals to cut greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050. Kids learning about sustainability from their own school building is a great example of NYC schools leading the way.” 

In order to integrate the building’s special features into the school’s educational mission, digital dashboards provide real-time updates of the amount of energy being generated and used. Individualized data is streamed into classrooms so students can track their own energy use, creating friendly competition among classes to become the most efficient. The dashboards in the second-floor common areas are surrounded by seats so teachers can use the spaces – known as “sustainability teaching nodes” – to teach science and math lessons incorporating the building’s energy data. 

Students at the PK-5 school will even get a chance to contribute directly through physical exercise by riding stationary bicycles that actually produce energy for the building. Outdoor gardens and a greenhouse in the second-floor courtyard will produce food for the cafeteria, not only helping children make healthy food choices but also teaching them about life cycles in nature. 

“I am overjoyed to be leading this amazing school,” said Principal Lisa Sarnicola. “It is extremely important to have ‘green’ schools because not only do they conserve and produce energy themselves, but they are incredible tools for teaching our children to become good stewards of our planet for years to come. These children will grow up from a young age learning how to be conservationists and they will bring that out into the world with them.” 

“We are particularly excited about the opening of our most technologically advanced school, PS 62, The Kathleen Grimm School for Leadership and Sustainability at Sandy Ground,” said Staten Island Borough President James Oddo. “This ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrates the school’s name, which honors one of the most revered educators we have ever known, and whose efforts were instrumental in placing the first net-zero energy school in the northeast here on Staten Island; at the same time, it honors Sandy Ground, the oldest continuously inhabited free black community in the United States. I would also like to recognize former Councilman Vinny Ignizio, whose dedication to the South Shore community helped bring us to this day. This is a great moment for Staten Island.” 

“Adjusting to meet the demands of the 21st-century job market starts with education. At schools like PS 62, students can start building the skills and knowledge to make America competitive in emerging fields and in a global marketplace. Further, PS 62 will employ state-of-the-art technology to help move us toward energy independence. I’d like to thank former Minority Leader Vincent Ignizio for his work in making this school a reality,” said Congressman Dan Donovan

“The opening of this school is an important milestone that all Staten Islanders can be proud of,” said Assemblyman Joseph Borelli. “This is one of the most technologically advanced and eco-friendly schools in the nation, which sits upon a site of rich and dignified history. This is a wonderful testament to the exceptionalism of both the Sandy Ground freedmen and Staten Island’s public schools.” 

“Deputy Chancellor Grimm was a very good friend of mine and one who cared deeply about Staten Island’s children,” said former City Council Minority Leader Vincent M. Ignizio. “I was happy to have worked very closely with her to make the school a reality and know that her ‘can-do’ spirit will live on in every child that attends it.” 

“Kathleen Grimm made children her life’s work. Our students’ safety and comfort were her first priority. She never lost sight of her mission. New York City’s school children are better off because of her,” said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers. 

“The Kathleen Grimm School at Sandy Ground is a wonderful tribute to its first-class deputy chancellor namesake and the proud historical significance of its location,” said Council of School Supervisors & Administrators Executive Vice President Mark Cannizzaro. “Deputy Chancellor Grimm will be remembered as an honest, straightforward and talented professional whose primary concern was for the children of this City. This school, a technological marvel at an historical site, is a fitting legacy to her years of service and a wonderful tribute to the area’s first settlers.” 

“We wanted to create both a beautiful school that will motivate students to learn, and an innovative net-zero energy building that will inspire a new generation toward environmental awareness,” said Chris McCready, Managing Director, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP

Located on Bloomingdale Road on the South Shore of Staten Island, the 444-seat school is designed to comply with the NYC School Construction Authority (SCA) Green Schools Guide, a stringent rating system based on the US Green Building Council’s LEED certification and developed specifically for New York City public schools. As SCA’s first “Sustainability Lab,” the school will support the City’s OneNYC initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Roughly 75 percent of the City’s greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to energy used in buildings. 

The solar panels, which are the building’s primary energy generators, produce 662,500 kWh of energy to offset the energy consumption of the building. The heating and cooling systems use 81 geothermal wells located 400 feet below ground, as well as 40 solar hot water panels on the roof. The $69 million project broke ground in 2012 and was completed over the summer; the school opened to students for the first time in September. 

In addition to its regular classrooms and sustainability nodes, the Kathleen Grimm School features art and music facilities, a science lab, gymnasium, a library, an outdoor playground, a running track and pathways around the property that encourage walking and feature displays that teach students about the environment. 

The school is located in an historic area known as Sandy Ground, which was home to a community established by African-Americans in 1828, just after slavery was abolished in New York. It was the site of some of the earliest documented land purchases by African-Americans in the area. To honor this unique history, in addition to Sandy Ground being part of the school’s name, a special exhibit featuring photographs and artifacts from Sandy Ground will be on permanent display in the school library.
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