Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Dane County Office of Energy & Climate Change

Children's Community School Net-Zero Building Success

By: Kate DuffyCCS

Although we can’t change decisions of the past, we can make decisions now that prioritize preserving our planet for future generations. This requires our children and grandchildren to grow into the resilient, creative, and persistent climate advocates we need to face the state of the climate in which they grow up. We are proud to see so many Dane County schools inspiring young people to take this challenge seriously by becoming Climate Champions. 

Among this year’s awarded Climate Champions was Children's Community School (CCS), which was awarded a four-star designation in the Building Design category. CCS is a Mount Horeb Montessori School dedicated to fostering an environment where children can explore the world and their place in it through hands-on learning experiences and positive social interactions.

Emergence of a Net-Zero Plan

As the need arose to expand and grow into a new building, CCS made the decision to focus on energy efficiency in the new design. Sandra Cannon, Business Manager, Treasurer and Steering Committee Chair at CCS, was the first voice encouraging the board to consider energy efficiency as a high priority. She has a long history of conservation since restoring 10 acres of former corn field in native Oak Savanna and Prairie in Blue Mounds Township for the past 30 years. The board was receptive to her ideas and enthusiasm from staff, alumni and community members secured sustainability as the focus of the project. 

To make this building possible, CCS secured USDA Rural Development financing and fundraised over $1 million in just 16 months. The generous community was inspired by the school’s net-zero goals, and donations from the school’s board of Directors, the Schlecht Family Foundation, and other community members well surpassed the initial goal of $750,000, enabling immediate implementation of their net-zero vision.

Building Design

CCS Solar View

CCS worked closely with OPN Architects, NCI Roberts, and Focus on Energy Design Assistance to incorporate as many energy saving elements into the building design as possible. The school was developed with an all-electric design, including a 60,000 kWh/year solar photovoltaic system on their large south facing roof, which will provide 100% of the facility’s electric usage. They used Energy Star high solar gain glazed non-metal windows with Argon, R-24 wall and R-36 roof insulation, and Energy Star appliances. They also implemented 100% LED lighting with dimming switches, exterior lighting with automatic daylight shutoff, and an Energy Star and NEEA certified electric water heater with an electric heat pump.

 After an incredible planning, fundraising, and execution journey, they opened the doors to their new net- zero building in April of 2023.

CCS Interior View


Forest Edge Elementary School acted as an important model for CCS after board members took a tour and learned about the first net zero school in Wisconsin (and a 2021 4 star Building Design Climate Champion). They saw that achieving net-zero was feasible, which inspired them to set this as their new design goal. 

As a non-profit Montessori preschool since 1976, CCS is passionate about the importance of nurturing a child’s connection to the beauty and wonder of the natural world, aligning with the Montessori philosophy to teach children to become good stewards of our earth. By creating a net zero school, they hope to inspire their children and community, as they have been inspired

In their main hallway lives an energy display demonstrating energy produced by month and year from their solar array, and the words “we can make a difference one building at a time!” sit above. They are doing just that. As a sustainability education hub, CCS is committed to lending their time and energy to provide tours and presentations for interested community groups, as well as educational opportunities for children at their school and within the rest of the Mount Horeb Area School District.

Children’s Community School, we applaud your remarkable commitment to nurturing future generations of Climate Action Champions and we take pride in celebrating stories like these because they become inspiring catalysts of change within the community.