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San Diego Jewish Academy marks major milestone in Sustainability Initiative

SDJA leadership and community members celebrate the activation of their solar project.
SDJA leadership and community members celebrate the activation of their solar project.
(Courtesy of San Diego Jewish Academy)

San Diego Jewish Academy recently marked a major milestone in the school’s ambitious Sustainability Initiative celebrating the completion and activation of its 800 kW solar project, further placing the school on the road to electricity independence, according to a San Diego Jewish Academy (SDJA) news release.

“SDJA’s Sustainability Initiative highlights our school’s commitment and vision for environmental sustainability while continuing our focus on innovation and graduating community leaders,” said Zvi Weiss, Head of School at SDJA. “The initiative is a direct reflection of our Jewish value, bal tashchit, to protect the earth.”

Michael Zimerman, SDJA’s chief sustainability officer
Michael Zimerman, SDJA’s chief sustainability officer
(Courtesy of San Diego Jewish Academy)

“Today’s celebration highlights the leadership, innovation and environmental stewardship undertaken by SDJA for the health of our kids and our community,” said Heidi Gantwerk, board chair at SDJA. “SDJA’s quest for electricity independence should serve as an inspiration for schools and communities throughout the country and the world.”

The project includes the installation of solar panels on most of the school’s building rooftops, as well as on newly constructed carports in its Upper School parking lot. Once a planned large energy storage (aka battery) system is installed on campus, SDJA will save approximately $400,000 annually by generating its own electricity. Additionally, the project design includes a roadmap to develop the SDJA campus into a micro-grid, whereby SDJA would become completely self-sufficient in meeting its energy requirements.

While some college campuses have achieved this, SDJA is not aware of any independent school in the U.S. that has, placing SDJA at the forefront, the news release stated.

Jessica Fink
Jessica Fink (SDJA parent), Carly Feuerstein (SDJA parent), Rachelle B. Jagolinzer (SDJA director of advancement and SDJA parent)
(Courtesy of San Diego Jewish Academy)

“A key goal of our Sustainability Initiative includes the designation as a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School,” adds Michael Zimerman, SDJA’s chief sustainability officer. “This important designation will include environmental and sustainability educational programming, and we envision our students learning the technology and operating the controls of the eventual microgrid on our campus, creating an invaluable and unique experience we can offer our students.”

SDJA’s Sustainability Initiative has included many innovative, historical and creative steps, including the creation of SDJA’s current home, the 56-acre Jaffe Campus, which provides the fundamental platform to develop the Sustainability Initiative, and the September 2019 appointment of Zimerman as the schools CSO to liaise with school leadership, employees, suppliers, parents, students, and the broader community to address sustainability.

“As a community, San Diego Jewish Academy focuses on creativity, innovation and entrepreneurial thinking — each of which are essential parts of this initiative,” adds Weiss. “We are proud of the progress we have made thus far and will continue to work with our students, parents and staff on the exciting journey to sustainability.”


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