The White Bear Lake Area School District has been recognized as a "top performer" in energy efficiency by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The district earned the 2012 designation as part of the EPA's Energy Star program, which recognizes businesses and governmental bodies for energy-efficient practices that save money and protect the environment.

According to the agency, the district has saved more than $154,000 annually since taking steps in 2010 to change its energy consumption. The district has a "portfolio" of 15 buildings totalling more than 1.5 million square feet of floor space, the EPA said. The district says it has cut its energy use by 6 percent.

"We are committed to energy efficiency both because it is the right thing to do and it is the smart thing to do," school Board Member Chris Hiniker said in a statement. "It's wonderful to be recognized for the hard work of staff and students."

To begin trimming its utility costs, White Bear Lake enrolled in an energy-saving program operated by an independent company, Class 5 Energy. Students formed energy monitoring groups and explored ways to reduce costs as part of a "twinning arrangement" with students in Singapore.

Other districts that have made special efforts to conserve energy in previous years have included the South Washington County and Mahtomedi schools.


Students playing new classical instruments

A music teacher secured a $5,000 grant to put new instruments in the hands of students in the Forest Lake Area High School guitar program.

The funding from the St. Croix Valley Foundation led to delivery of 36 Yamaha classical guitars just before Christmas, teacher David Livermore said in a news release.

He said that having students playing instruments of the same type and quality has helped ensure everyone has proper technique. Students are progressing more quickly "and having a blast doing so," he said.

Livermore pursued the funding after encountering difficulty keeping up with instrument repairs.

The 10-year-old guitar program has grown in popularity. When it started, there was one level of instruction. Now there are two.

The St. Croix Valley Foundation offers music-education grants through a special fund created by an anonymous donor. Funding is available to schools in Washington and Chisago counties in Minnesota, and Pierce, Polk and St. Croix counties in Wisconsin.


Night event set for kindergarten sign-ups

"Kindergarten Enrollment Night" will be Feb. 11 in the South Washington County School District.

The district recently sent out information packets to families with children who will be 5 years old on or before Sept. 1.

Children and their parents can visit classrooms and meet with teachers and staff members during the enrollment event, which runs from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at each of the district's elementary schools. Families are urged to go to the school within their specific attendance boundaries.

Parents who have not received an information packet and who have children born on or before Sept. 1, 2008, should call 651-458-6218. Families are also asked to call if they decide to delay their child's attendance or elect to send their children to a private or out-of-district program.