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The San Juan Hills High School Ecology Action Team is leading the charge to push for the implementation of solar panel arrays on all high school campuses within the Capistrano Unified School District. Photo: Courtesy of Russell Tran
The San Juan Hills High School Ecology Action Team is leading the charge to push for the implementation of solar panel arrays on all high school campuses within the Capistrano Unified School District. Photo: Courtesy of Russell Tran

By Allison Jarrell

A coalition of student clubs within four Capistrano Unified School District high schools began petitioning Feb. 1 to install solar panel arrays on every high school campus in the district.

The “Dear Capistrano Unified School District: Let’s Go Solar!” petition on has already garnered more than 530 signatures from area students, parents, faculty and supporters interested in utilizing solar energy in schools.

The San Juan Hills High School’s Ecology Action Team, led by sophomore and club president Russell Tran, has taken charge of the student-led movement with assistance from KyotoUSA, a Berkeley-based nonprofit organization that works with cities, public school districts and communities to develop strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Other schools involved with the petition include Dana Hills High School, San Clemente High School and Tesoro High School.

Tran said neighboring school districts in Los Angeles, Irvine, Newport-Mesa and Santa Ana have successfully implemented solar array projects, and he hopes CUSD will follow suit. He noted that CUSD has several funding options for solar, including Proposition 39, Qualified Zone Academy Bonds, California Energy Commission zero percent interest loans and low-interest Clean Renewable Energy bonds.

“Students represent the citizens of the next generation, so by getting students involved in activism or being proactive in society, we can build a better world that way,” Tran said. “We’re demonstrating what we learn in school about freedom of speech and democracy—we want to show the district that we’re taking initiative.”

The coalition of students plans to present their petition to the Board of Trustees at a future meeting.

In the meantime, CUSD spokesman Ryan Burris said the district has begun reaching out to the high schools and clubs involved in the solar movement to ensure they’re part of the district’s ongoing conversation regarding funding, facility improvements and energy efficiency efforts.

Burris added that at the Board of Trustees’ Feb. 10 meeting, energy audit services provided by Schneider Electric were approved in order to capitalize on the available funding through Proposition 39.

For more information on the students’ solar petition, visit

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comments (1)

  • Congratulations to our youth for their citizenship calling for the Capistrano Unified School District to go green with solar on their buildings and over their parking areas.

    Global warming is no longer a philosophical threat, no longer a future threat. It is happening now. Global warming has brought about major changes in global climate and, as a result of these changes, California is experiencing the worst drought in our recorded history, and it could get worse. Researchers from NASA, Cornell and Columbia universities are predicting an 80 percent chance of a mega-drought if climate change continues unabated.

    As the CUSD students have point out, “CUSD is not the first to go solar. Success speaks for itself: local school districts who have gone solar include: Paradise USD, Mt. Diablo USD,
    Berkeley USD, San Ramon Valley USD, San Francisco USD, William S. Hart Union High School District, Golden Valley USD, Santa Cruz City Schools, Milpitas USD, Antelope Valley USD, Riverside USD, Palmdale USD, Los Angeles USD, Santa Ana USD, Poway USD, Sweetwater Union High School District, and Irvine USD.

    Irvine Unified School District, along with Redondo Beach, Newport Mesa and Los Angeles Unified School Districts began their transition to solar power more than a year ago. Overall, the IUSD’s solar program is estimated that it will ultimately reduce energy spending by about $305,000 a year, with a projected 20-year savings of approximately $9.6 million. That kind of savings is nothing to laugh about. The program will free up money that could be better used proving a better educational environment, particularly in the area of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

    The students might not be able to save the world on their own, but they are certainly taking the first steps in our community to mitigate some of the effects of global warming. The least we can do is to stand with them.

    Visit their web site at to learn more about their project and sign their petition. It’s the least you can do.

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