TEXAS COUNTY, Mo. – A new heating system at two Texas County schools will have both classroom and conservation benefits. Ribbons were cut Nov. 13 on renovated boiler buildings at Summersville R-2 Elementary School and at Houston R-1 High School. These boiler buildings house wood-burning heating units that were funded through the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Fuels for Schools Program – an initiative designed to provide warmth to classrooms, stimulus to local economies, and health to local forests.
“This program offers a way for school districts to conserve energy costs and support Missouri’s forest products industry,” said State Forester Lisa Allen. “Their new heating systems will run much more efficiently, using wood waste from nearby sawmills – a less expensive and renewable resource.”
Missouri’s Fuels for Schools program began in 2009 when MDC was awarded a grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support projects using wood (also known as biomass) to heat schools. MDC helped fund boiler installations in Mountain View, Ellington, Eminence, and Gainesville. This round of grant funds was provided solely through MDC with the school districts providing additional matching funds.
“Schools like Summersville and Houston are ideal for this program because they can support a market for small, poorly formed trees that can be thinned from the forest,” said MDC Forest Products Programs Supervisor Mike Morris. “These schools can use a local fuel source harvested by a local logger, transported and processed in a local mill and delivered to the schools.”
Removing smaller trees from nearby woods improves forest health by thinning over-crowded areas and removing disease and insect-infested trees. Programs like Fuels for Schools also provide an additional market for wood waste from sawmills, supports local jobs, and promotes good forest management.
MDC awarded grants of $305,000 to both the Summersville and Houston projects. The grants were managed by the South Central Ozark Council of Goverments, with substantial support and technical assistance from the U.S. Forest Service Wood Education and Resource Center, and Wilson Engineering Company.
People can find more about Missouri’s Fuel for Schools program by calling their local MDC office and asking for the Forestry Division.