School board listens to Charter School concerns
The Baldwin School Board met Monday in a continuation of last week's regular board meeting. As a result of discussion of next fall's district staffing during the board's executive session last week, a delegation of parents and students from the Charter School were present to voice their displeasure over the possible closing of the school.
Emotions Run High
At the regular school board meeting last week in executive session, Supt. James White recommended in his personnel report that the charter of the charter school not be renewed for next year. One teacher would be shifted to the junior high and the other teacher remain at the high school and provide half-time support for the special-needs students.
"More than half the students are only in the charter school two to three hours a day," said White. "I feel we can provide the support for them with the half-time teacher and support from the school counselor and nurse."
Emotions were obvious as the students and parents expressed their concerns. The consensus was that the charter school is more like a family than a school. Students and parents alike feel that charter school students will not be able to function if forced to attend regular school full time.
"We can't meet the pressures of ordinary classrooms," said one student.
"We work with each other. It's hands on. It works for us," said another. "Without it, what are we going to do?"
This was an important question, as parents and students made it clear that many students would simply drop out of school altogether if there was no charter school alternative. This would negatively impact an already high dropout rate at the high school, they said.
Parents were particularly concerned about the impact on teachers in regular classrooms if charter students were forced to return.
"These students slow the regular classes down. Do I have to explain my child's condition to seven teachers? It isn't fair to the other teachers."
"I'm begging you to reconsider," one parent told the school board. "We'll do whatever it takes to keep the school going."
"The decision seems so abrupt," said another parent. "It's such a shock."
Still another parent told the board the decision to close the charter school had to be based on more than money. He wanted to know how the school was failing, since the closing didn't seem to be based on a reduction in the district's teaching staff. The school board had heard the parents' and students' side of the story, now the school board needed to tell its side of the story, he said.
School Board President Ed Schulte said the issue would be added to the agenda for further discussion at the next regular meeting on May 14.
"It's always positive to have students come in," Schulte said. "Our objective has never been to take away programs where there are needs. We really do have the best of intentions, and want to do the right thing for everyone."
Several students declared that they wanted to learn and to graduate.
"We want the same thing," said Schulte. "Let's put our heads together."
In other business
The board unanimously approved four motions regarding improvements in the HVAC system at Baldwin High School.
After talking with the city about construction along Sixth Street, it was determined that the city would replace and re-erect any school district fencing taken down during the road work. Thus the board unanimously approved the city's request for a temporary easement on the east five feet of lots 80 and 87 between Baker and Chapel on Sixth Street.
A special meeting to republish the budget will be held April 30 at 7 p.m. in the district office. The state allows the board to republish the budget in order to obtain additional funds to cover any increase in student population during the year. Thus the increase of 22 students this year will bring in an additional $53,000 to the budget.
Energy Proposal Approved
The next order of business concerned the high school energy proposal by EPM, a manufacturer of computerized temperature controls.
After this proposal, the board unanimously approved four motions:
To select and retain an independent engineer to develop and publish specifications for the installation of a computerized temperature control system (CTC) for the high school and to evaluate bids for the most cost-effective system at a cost of not more than $8,000.
To retain an independent engineer to evaluate the vibration situation with the Mammoth rooftop unit at the high school, to evaluate structural supports, and to report findings to the board at a cost of not more than $5,000.
To pursue approval for a lease/purchase not to exceed a 7 percent annual interest for a period not to exceed 10 years through a commercial bank for an amount not to exceed $250,000 for the engineering required for and the purchase of a CTC system at the high school.
To execute the necessary documents, purchase orders, and lease/purchase agreements necessary to purchase and/or lease and install a CTC system in the high school at a cost of not more than $250,000.
Before the board voted on these motions, Ben Trout from EPM explained the benefits of his system. The CTC system will control the temperature, reduce energy consumption, reduce electric demand charges, and allow the district to fully benefit from the new demand-based electric rate proposed by the city.
The CTC system has two options: computerized monitoring of the heating and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment and protection for the HVAC equipment from phase losses and brownouts. Trout encouraged the board to move quickly on its decision as the firm could have the system installed and in operation by July 31, in time for peak electrical usage of the new school year.
Total cost of the system is $247,648, which reflects a 10 percent discount for a quick decision. First-year savings is projected at $104,190, with a payback period of 3.25 years. That results in a 29.34 percent internal rate of return.
Currently, the high school energy usage is 115 kbtus per square foot per year. Average for this type of facility is 60 kbtu. The CTC system guarantees a minimum savings of at least 25 percent, bringing it down to around 86 kbtu. This would result in a utility savings of $34,000 the first year, approximately the same cost of loan payments for the system. Monitoring, repair, and maintenance costs for the HVAC system are also projected to reflect a savings of $70,000 the first year.
The high-tech system relies on communication over the Internet, and EPM will automatically be notified of any problems by the system itself.
The problem with the current HVAC system at the high school is that the AC system runs all the time even in the winter just in case various classrooms become too hot and need to be cooled down. Cost-savings are achieved through night setback of the system, meaning shutting the equipment off when the school is unoccupied. But this causes a peak demand when the system starts up each day, and that sets the electrical rate the district must pay.
The school could install a direct digital control system that restricts rather than allocates, said Trout. In other words, it is on a time-based duty cycle, turning the whole system off at regular intervals. The person in charge of the school must decide how uncomfortable they are willing to be to obtain savings in utility costs. The more uncomfortable they are, the more the savings.
By comparison, the CTC system looks at every classroom and decides in real time what to do. A computer controls the rooftop AC unit, turning it on only as a last resort after other methods of adjusting the room temperature have been attempted, such as bringing in outside air.
"The computer projects what to do to meet demand," Trout said. "For example, how many rooms to shut off and which ones to leave on. This means that the teacher determines the temperature of the room, rather than having the temperature in all rooms set by the system or one person."
Key to this system is the ability of the custodians to maintain it.
"We train your people to service it," Trout said. "You shouldn't own what you can't take care of."
There is a one-year warranty on installation labor, five years on parts, and no limitation on software upgrades as it is a custom-written program.
"The actual cost of this system is less than we're paying now," said Supt. White. "It makes good sense and won't take any more out of our budget."