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GPS unveils new energy-efficient upgrades to several school campuses

GPS unveils new energy-efficient upgrades to several school campuses
Written by Kailey Latham


A wide shot photo showing the new LED lighting at Gilbert High School over the football field.

Saving energy, water and money while improving safety. Gilbert Public Schools is proud to announce the second phase of the district wide energy project is near completion. GPS has been working side-by-side with Schneider Electric since 2019 to modernize school campuses and improve the well-being of our students, staff and families. The latest round of installations includes new LED lighting, smart irrigation systems and artificial turf.

“This was the largest-scale retrofit that we’ve done, because of the need. We focused mainly on the secondary schools, because of their size,” said Albert Dutchover, the director of Maintenance and Operations for Gilbert Public Schools.

In August 2022, the GPS Governing Board voted in favor of moving forward with this phase of the project, which was made possible through the support of the community and bond money. The first step was to convert the stadium lighting at all five comprehensive high schools into LED lighting. 

“It’s something that is going to improve safety for our kids. It’s going to help improve their performance, because they can actually see where they are going. It’ll also add to the atmosphere and that is important when it comes to athletics as well as all extracurricular activities that utilize a football field,” said GPS Superintendent Dr. Shane McCord.

The LED sports field lighting provides numerous benefits, including increasing the lighting quality significantly to meet current standards. Dutchover describes the new lighting as “clean and consistent,” meaning students should have similar experiences across school campuses when competing in a sporting event or activity. As for the surrounding community, the LED lights are directional, helping to reduce or eliminate light pollution in neighborhoods at night.

Some additional benefits from the upgrade will support the needs and staffing of the Maintenance and Operations department. Unlike the previous lighting system, the new LED lights greatly reduce maintenance costs. Their lifespan is 20 plus years with little to no maintenance. As a result, the department will substantially reduce the amount of equipment rentals and staff reassignments for light replacements, ultimately saving the district money. 

“For one week to rent the equipment, it was $7,000 and that’s not including our technicians’ time. I would have to pull them out of the field for a week,” Dutchover said.


A wide shot photo of the Gilbert High football field lit up red by colored LED lighting.

An added feature of the new LED lighting is the ability to have colored lighting. The lights come with red, green, blue and amber settings to allow for color customization. For schools, this means they can use the settings to showcase their school colors, or even shine red, white and blue during the national anthem. There are also several lighting scenes to create cool effects, like the flashing lights of paparazzi or a sparkling mode. 

“You can customize and create these for anything that you want to add emphasis to or highlight, whether it’s a goal, or the dance and cheer squad coming out at halftime to do their routine on the field,” said Brandon Woodward of Schneider Electric.

The colored lights can also be used for celebratory events like graduation or awareness nights. For now, there are no music features with the lights, but that is something that could be potentially explored down the line.  

“This is something pretty great for our school district, and what I like is that it’s not just at one school but it’s at all of our schools. It’s something that all of our kids can share in,” Dr. McCord said.

New LED lighting was also added to the exterior of all of our GPS high school buildings, including Gilbert Classical Academy and Canyon Valley School. The upgrades were made in high-traffic areas on campus and parking lots to increase visibility, especially at night.

“We looked into non-existent deficiencies, so areas where we had poor lighting or no lighting, and we added lighting circuits for safety,” Dutchover said.  

Smart irrigation systems were also installed at our comprehensive high schools as well as Desert Ridge Junior High and Highland Junior High. The systems help conserve water by having an automated scheduler that can be optimized for efficiency through remote access. This allows maintenance and operations staff to control the system from their phone, PC or tablet, ultimately saving time and money with fewer on-site trips. 

“We can remotely, not only schedule facilities to be on and off, but we can also monitor facilities. [With the previous system] sometimes schedules would be off and during a game the sprinklers would go off. This helps not only the maintenance staff really monitor the use, but also the functionality of the systems,” Dutchover said. 


A collage of two photos showing the before and after images of the turf installation at Mesquite High School.

Through this project, Desert Ridge High, Mesquite High and Gilbert Classical Academy were the recipients of new artificial turf. The upgrades not only improved aesthetics, but also resolved some current maintenance issues. The turf was placed in areas of the campuses that had a significant number of weeds and/or dirt patches. The replacement provides a more appealing landscape appearance year-round.

At GCA, the new turf also eliminates another issue on campus. A sprinkler system in place on the campus would water the grass near the security fencing. However, the water would also be responsible for deteriorating the fencing, so the upgrade to turf now resolves the issue for Dutchover’s team.

“This brought us to a point where now we are working a little more efficiently,” he said. 

As presented to the GPS Governing Board, the savings from this phase of the project in the first annual year is estimated to be $360,000. Phase one of the district wide energy project included the installation of LED lighting in 17 high school and junior high gyms. The upgrades increased lighting levels by 73 percent, reduced energy consumption by 61 percent and resulted in $63,000 in annual savings.