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OPINION: Eureka rewarded for due diligence in school district

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By Aberdeen American News

It is foolish to expect a young person to follow your advice and to ignore your example.

It is not what you teach, but what you emphasize.

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Your example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing — which is sage advice when you are trying to teach young people. Giving advice is one thing, however, following it is taking the lesson to a whole new level.

So instead of just telling the children to do their homework, the Eureka school board hunkered down and did some homework of its own. The board faced a tough decision a few years ago after its heating system went down. So the district researched costs of various systems, including solar power, corn burner, geothermal energy, electricity and fuel oil, which the school had been using.

Some candidates were quickly eliminated. Solar energy was found to be an ineffective replacement.

The corn burner system would have only worked for half the school. A geothermal system would have cost $1.6 million.

“If we were building new, that would be the sensible choice,” Eureka superintendent Bo Beck said. “But it was cost-prohibitive.”

It was decided coal would be the best way to heat the school, since coal prices generally stay steady. Some challenges came with convincing community members that a coal system would not spread ash all over the school and town.

More homework was done by visiting schools with coal-heating systems. They discovered those systems were working well for those schools and their communities, and there were not problems with ash.

“Coal won out with its cost-effectiveness,” Beck said. It cost $235,000 to install the coal-based heating system. Coal costs are usually about $20,000 annually, but it depends on the severity of winter weather. According to projections, the school would be paying about $70,000 had it kept its old fuel oil. “We’ve been really happy with the savings and the efficiency of our heating system,” Beck said. “The taxpayers are probably happy with the savings as well.” The savings are truly piling up for the Eureka board. But the lesson of it leading its children by example is priceless.

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