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Shell donates $27,000 to Ferndale schools

Shell WindEnergy, the company proposing the controversial Bear River Ridge wind farm, has received approval to donate $27,000 to the Ferndale Unified School District for technology upgrades.

The donation – which is not associated with the wind farm project but administered through the company’s social investment program – will help the school district with improvements to infrastructure and purchase of equipment. The program may also provide curriculum materials about wind-generated power in the future.

Superintendent Jack Lakin said the school is grateful for the donation, which will add to the district’s ongoing fundraising efforts. He said the school has already received $17,000 from the Lytel Foundation and $15,000 from the Melvin F. & Grace McLean Foundation.

”With the cuts that have occurred to education in this state, to be able to garner these funds, whether they’re from Shell or the Lytel Foundation or the McLean Foundation, specifically for technology – we feel fortunate that it has come our way,” Lakin said.

Shell spokeswoman Cate Powers said Lakin approached the company’s social investment program last fall about the district’s technology needs.

For the high school, the money will go toward the wireless computer lab, the music speaker/subwoofer system and a multimedia computer for the high school yearbook. Additionally, the funding will upgrade existing computers at the high school and elementary school and replace 13
elementary school computers.

The upgrades are part of a bigger plan to bring the school’s technology up to speed. While the district would like to complete $205,000 worth of planned improvements, Lakin said the funds collected so far will allow it to have a good start.

The district’s infrastructure needs to be upgraded before it can support a higher level of technology, he said.

Pana Ratana, business development advisor for Shell WindEnergy, said in a statement Friday that the company is looking forward to further educational partnership.

”Shell WindEnergy is very happy that we can support the Ferndale School District in working to achieve their goal of upgrading the technology available to students,” he said in the statement. “We also are excited to explore opportunities to work with the teachers to assist in educating students about energy development, specifically wind power.”

Powers said Shell WindEnergy representatives plan to coordinate with the high school science teachers to identify opportunities within the curriculum for representatives to speak to classes regarding wind energy and energy production in general. Additionally, the company’s program has a “wind blade challenge” curriculum it can share with the 4th and 5th grade teacher. She said the school would need to approve of the curriculum first.

Powers said there is also potential for a student open house, similar to the one the company is planning for the community this spring, that would answer questions about wind power in general or the Bear River Ridge Wind project. The project would use up to 25 wind turbines along the ridge south of Ferndale. In the past, residents voiced concern over the project at multiple city council meetings.

To view the company’s new project website, go to www.shell.us/home/content/usa/innovation/wind/projects/bear_river/.