Not quite ready to make a decision, the Wawasee school board asked to table a request to install geothermal at Wawasee Middle School. Geothermal was among the agenda items discussed at the board’s regular monthly meeting Tuesday.
Geothermal has been considered and discussed for several months. Clean renewable energy bonds through the federal stimulus funds makes it more attractive financially due to a reduced interest rate.
A geothermal test well was installed at WMS in the spring. Bob Wede of Performance Services in Indianapolis told the board during a work session prior to the meeting Tuesday the test well provided positive results showing there is good heat conductivity. “It would take 52 wells to run geothermal at the middle school,” he said.
He estimated the school corporation could save $25,000 yearly in energy costs, though he noted his estimate was on the conservative side as he does not know how much natural gas could cost in the future.
Wede noted geothermal would extend the life of equipment already installed such as boilers and chillers because they would only need to run in extreme hot or cold weather conditions. “Geothermal is also a green solution and reduces the amount of greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.
With state budget cuts geothermal could save the Wawasee district money in both the capital projects and general funds of the budget.
Estimated cost for geothermal is $1.3 million. While some members of the school board feel geothermal is a good concept, they are hesitant to approve a project that would take several years to see a payback. They want more time to consider it and voted to table it until a July 31 meeting slated as a budget workshop hearing.
Dr. Tom Edington, superintendent, said July 31 is probably the latest date to take a vote because a deadline is nearing to use the CREB funds or they will expire. Jim Evans, director of finance, said the bonds must be sold by October.
Also during the work session, the board discussed a list provided by the architect firm Barton-Coe-Vilamaa of Fort Wayne showing other potential construction projects at WMS. Edington noted some of the projects had been slated for future capital funds projects, but it was felt if the projects could be completed now the building would not need as much attention later.
The list includes masonry work outside the building, repairing the east driveway, upgrading the alternative suspension program room and adding a restroom, replacing the sidewalks along the south drive, enclosing the media center with windows and doors, enclosing the cafeteria with doors and others.
Board members questioned a few of the projects saying they did not appear to be of a high priority. For example, the sidewalk along the south drive is a bit high above the pavement, but perhaps a sign could be posted as a warning or the pavement could be adjusted. Board member George Gilbert asked for the list to be prioritized in order of importance before a vote is taken.
If everything on the list is approved, which doesn’t appear to be likely, it could cost an estimated $665,000 depending on where bids come in.
In other business, the board heard a report from the school district’s attorney, David Cates, about updating the smoking policies on school property. A couple of years ago, a no smoking policy was approved for the school corporation but smoking is permitted under special circumstances if approved by the superintendent.
But the policy needs to be updated to comply with the new Indiana smoking ban that went into effect July 1. Cates noted the new law would also apply to the bus garage, central office and any other non-educational building where school corporation employees may work. He believes the policies of the district need to be updated to include administration taking appropriate action if someone is found smoking on any school property.
Edington said he has not been asked to make an exception to allow smoking since the policies were approved. No vote was taken as there must be three readings on a policy change and this was only the first reading.
Also on the agenda, Bob Cockburn, during his stat of the month presentation, showed the board ISTEP+ trends in the school district since 2009. ISTEP+ results were officially released by the Indiana Department of Education Tuesday, though Edington noted those numbers have not been reviewed yet locally.
Cockburn said there have been positive trends the last few years in some grades. The third grade, for example, has seen a steady increase in the number of students passing the English and language arts portion of the test. Math results continue to be better than English and language arts corporation wide.
For a full report on the Wawasee school board meeting, see today’s issue of The Mail-Journal.