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Upgrades and solar arrays

Tehachapi School Board Update

At the TUSD September board meeting, a decision was made to create a facilities committee based on the issues brought forward by Corey Costelloe from THS Boosters and requested by board member Napier.

Superintendent Stacey Larson-Everson took the request and researched what facilities committees look like in other districts. She presented the potential bylaws to the board which included 15 seats: one held by a parent from each school in the district; three held by community members; one seat held by representatives from California School Employee Association, Tehachapi Association of Teachers and Confidential Management; and three seats held by high school students. The committee would be guided by the Chief Administrator of Business Services. Members would be subject to two-year terms on the committee.

Costelloe advocated for a lower member count in order to streamline decision making. He also wanted one seat held for the Booster Club.

A reporter from another newspaper was concerned about the longevity of the dye natatorium pool, as the parks and recreation department only believes the pool has five to six years left. She suggested that Tehachapi Valley Recreation & Park District (TVRPD) may want to be involved.

School board candidate Paul Kaminski would like to add fine arts to the discussion as the band and drama departments also use the facilities. Board member Joe Wallek wanted a space on the committee for a board member. Wallek specifically wanted Napier on the committee because of his expertise in the facilities area.

After much discussion, the board decided that there were enough specific changes that a sub-committee would be required. A motion to form this short lived sub-committee to create the bylaws for the facilities committee was slated for the November board meeting.

The Business Director for the district spoke on the planned solar arrays being installed at the schools. The system would generate energy during the day and would be used at the time of generation. A battery would also be installed in order to store inexpensive energy during the day and be discharged during peak times, when prices are higher. The district will not be buying the solar panels. Rather, Forefront Energy LLC, will be installing them at no cost to the district, and in exchange the district agrees to buy 100% of the electricity generated by the solar arrays for a fixed rate. The contract lasts for 20 years with an option to extend to 25 years. This is estimated to save the district a very small amount in the first year, but as prices go up over time, the rate stays the same for the district, saving money.

The board was given two options as it pertains to the Golden Hills Elementary School array. The original plan was to place solar arrays above the teachers' parking lot on the south west side of the campus. However, this upgrade would trigger ADA compliance rules, which would necessitate the construction of a switchback wheelchair ramp between the school and the parking lot. The updating would cost between $156,000-$222,000. The larger cost would be passed onto the district in the form of a more expensive rate of 17 cents per kWh. Alternatively, the district could install ground mounted arrays on the north end of the school. This would lower the cost in comparison to the original plan of 15 cents per kWh, but would require some trees be cut down. The board will decide during the November session.

Board member Napier stated that he is skeptical about installing the solar panels. He would prefer to keep the area clear for potential expansion for other facilities. Napier also speculated that the solar arrays would lower property values of neighboring houses and be an eyesore. The Business Director pointed out that there have been declining enrollment rates in Tehachapi, and California at large, so an expansion of facilities may not be needed.

The TUSD Board of Trustees meets on the second Tuesday of the month at Wells Education Center located at 300 S. Robinson St., Tehachapi, at 5 p.m.