Schools' Solar-Powered Electric Vehicle Charging Stations First in Nation

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Solar-Powered Twin Hills Schools May Be America’s Greenest District’s Growing Enrollment, Expanding Budgets Counter National Trend

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We are committed to providing sustainable and environmentally responsible architectural services to California’s schools.

When Twin Hills School District recently unveiled its new electric vehicle charging stations, it became the first public school district in the nation to let teachers, staff, parents and the community recharge their cars on campus using solar power.

The charging stations, powered by solar arrays, make the four-campus district America’s greenest, according to Les Crawford, its superintendent. The solar arrays and charging stations were made possible through Measure M funds, resulting from a county-wide ballot initiative that earmarked sales tax receipts for infrastructure improvements. The investment in solar power reduces the district’s utility bills to near zero and will pay for itself in just a few years.

“Allowing members of the community to use the PEP (plug-in electric power) stations is one way we can thank the community for coming through for us with Measure M funding,” said Crawford. “And it’s nice to know we’re contributing to a cleaner environment for all of us, not just our Twin Hills community.”

In 2007, the district teamed up with Persinger Architects and Associates, a local design firm, to create a plan for greening the campuses in the 56-year-old district whose oldest school, Apple Blossom, dates to 1958. In addition to installing PEP Stations and enough solar arrays to enable three of its four campuses to drive 100% of their electricity needs from solar power, saving $85,000 in annual utility costs (and creating shaded parking spaces and outdoor areas where kids eat their lunch), the district implemented one of the nation’s most aggressive recycling programs, reducing its solid waste to near zero. A renewable energy curriculum brings the greening initiative into every Twin Hills district classroom.

“We are committed to providing sustainable and environmentally responsible architectural services to California’s schools and we’re delighted to have worked on this project with the Twin Hills School District. Integrating the solar arrays into the covered walkways and car (and kid) ports marries design and functionality into everyday structures found on school campuses,” said Alexis Persinger, Principal Architect of Persinger Architects. “We hope our sustainable and ecologically-sound designs inspire parents and students alike.”

Solar power and electric-vehicle charging stations aren’t the only innovations at Twin Hills School District; they’re just two of the ways this small, semi-rural public school system is bucking a national trend.

The four schools that make up the Twin Hills School District in western Sonoma County, about an hour north of San Francisco, are adding art, music and technology classes while maintaining class sizes at 20 in grades K-3 and 28 in grades 4-8, without layoffs or schedule reductions, and achieving stellar academic performance. These impressive statistics have enabled the district to draw students from across a wide geographic area encompassing both Sonoma and Marin counties.

“Think private, act public,” is what Superintendent Les Crawford tells his teachers. “If you don’t act entrepreneurial, you will get stuck, which is the problem with many public school systems. When you get stuck, you cut instructional days, increase class size, layoff teachers. You’ve got to think like a business. Look where you’re going next, not where you’ve been. That’s the only way you’re going to increase enrollment by 40% in this economy.”

“At a time when other districts are cutting and declining, we’re adding and improving,” notes Superintendent Crawford. “Whether we’re a model for other districts nationally is not my call. What I do know is that even a public school district can think like a business by being responsive to the needs and concerns of its client population. For us, that means treating students with respect, acting responsibly toward our staff, being stewards of the environment, and good citizens in the community.”

About Twin Hills School District
Twin Hills Union School District was created in 1955 from a merger between Pleasant Hill School and Spring Hill School. Today, the district’s four campuses – Apple Blossom (K-5), Twin Hills (6-8), Sun Ridge (K-8), and Orchard View (K-12) -- serve 1,150 students from across Sonoma County and parts of western Marin County. The Twin Hill District is known for its high academic achievement, a safe environment for students, beautiful settings for its four campuses, and its sound economic foundation. Even as enrollment has increased dramatically in recent years, the district has retained small class sizes, avoided staff reductions, maintained its full schedule of instructional days, and added enrichment classes in music, art and technology. For additional information about Twin Hills School District and the Art & Garden Festival and Green Celebration, visit

About Persinger Architects and Associates
Founded in Sebastopol in 2001, Persinger Architects and Associates (PAA) specializes in public school design. PAA is also a leader in sustainable design and recently completed the first LEED Platinum project at a public elementary school in California. The PAA offices are 100% solar powered and they have designed solar projects for school districts throughout Northern California. In 2008, PAA grant writers obtained Clean Renewable Energy Bond allocations for six School Districts in Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties. For additional information about PAA, visit

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Misty Stewart
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