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Energy-saving middle school opens its doors in Hoke Co.

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HOKE COUNTY -- Sandy Grove Middle School opened its doors to 600 students on Monday. Unlike any other middle school in the nation, Sandy Grove is the first net-positive school, returning more energy than it consumes.

“This is a STEM building, and students will be able to use the building to learn,” said Erica Fortenberry, principal at Sandy Grove Middle School.

Large solar panels sit outside as well as cover the roof of the school, saving energy and money. The school returns more energy than it consumes and will save Hoke County Schools nearly $35 million over the next 40 years, $16 million in energy costs alone.

Inside the building, the green technology and innovation continues. A dashboard monitors how much energy is used and produced as well as water consumption, peaking students' interest and expanding their minds.

"[They] have a real world experience where they touch screens and get moment to moment data about the energy that this building uses,” said Mary Jacobs, 8th grade teacher at Sandy Grove Middle School.

Every classroom is equipped with a Smartboard for students and teachers to use, just one example of how this school will prepare these students for the digital age and hopefully share their going green education with others.

"This building is for the future. It's preparing them to ensure that you can see outside of the school. Living in a safe, green environment, they can take what they are learning here at the building and take it home and teach their parents and siblings how to conserve energy,” said Fortenberry.

"It makes them aware that their day-to-day existence is going to influence the future. It makes them significant because they are a first,” said Jacobs.

Under traditional finances for traditional schools, the construction and future costs of operating for 40 years would total about $50 million. Sandy Grove Middle School will cost $16 million.

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