Hope School Board

The Hope School Board met Monday for their regular monthly meeting. The meeting was a Zoom presentation with the board social distancing in the board room and other participants weighing in remotely.

After approval of the minutes and discussion on the disbursals, the board heard from John Coleman, Parker Hitts,and Sam Shelton of Entegrity, a company conducting an energy audit for the district. The company is also looking at possibly working on a plan to bring solar power to the district. Coleman noted the plan is to look at energy and water, maintenance,and capital cost avoidance. Coleman said the company hopes to offset about 80% of the district’s energy cost by transitioning the district to solar power. Coleman said they are visiting with Hope Water and Light. Total energy costs including electric, water, and gas are over $552,000. Maintenance cost is $66,753 for materials and $51,000 in labor. The company thinks the district can save $35,000 in energy costs per year. He noted they audited 5,228 light fixtures and believes they can save 55% with L.E.D. lighting. In water, he said they audited 1,000 water fixtures. They estimate they can save one quarter of the water currently being used and one-third of the amount of energy used to heat water. Also they discussed “hammering issues” causing water leaks from pipes in the ceiling at Clinton Primary. It was noted they audited 464 HVAC units. 95 systems date to 1983 to 1998. Most of these would be replaced. The company presented the district with a cost of $2.5 million with solar and $2.3 million without solar. The savings per year is projected at $182,000 with solar and $149,000 without solar. Coleman said he was expecting a final decision from the board in July and August. Board member Bubba Powers asked about the issues with Hope Water and Light. Coleman said Russell Cornelius has been great to work with. He said Hope Water and Light has a limit of 300 kilowatts to be provided by solar. Entegrity wants to provide 1,400 kilowatts for the Hope Schools. Also, Entegrity is working with UAHT and wants to build only one solar array to serve the schools and college as opposed to the two arrays Hope Water and Light wants. Coleman said the Water and Light Commission can make the decision to make exception for the schools’ proposed kilowatt output. Board member Katherine Dickerson asked about the school’s proposed payment and it was noted should the district choose the option with the solar development, the district would be paying $170,000 per year on the $2.5 million project. This would save approximately $12,000 per year. There were no further questions and no action was taken.

Dr. Bobby Hart discussed the special education audit. He also noted the Hope Schools Hall of Fame inductees will include Bobby Whitmarsh, Rose Davis , Kenneth Muldrew, Juneanne Brown, Floyd Young,and Dr. W.G. Wynn.

The board voted to allow the district to begin the bidding process on the Garland roof project.

Dr. Hart noted Governor Hutchinson has announced school will be commenced on campuses this fall. Dr Hart shared some results of the survey they had taken from families to obtain information concerning online studies. Dr. Hart noted the ways the district could help students with limited or no broadband. He also showed the responses from parents on how they could get their students to school if buses don’t run this fall. He noted only 22% of parents would be comfortable allowing their children to ride a bus this fall. 26.1% percent of those who took the survey would not be comfortable with their children on buses. The survey was distributed on social media and elicited 259 responses. The board discussed distributing it via email or “snail mail” as well as media coverage. The survey also showed 39.8% if respondents said they felt comfortable sending their youngsters to school this fall. Dr. Hart wants to have a plan to determine how the district will keep students safe. He noted the Governor is not giving students a choice about going back so the district will work to determine the best way to keep students safe. Dr. Hart also noted there are some staffers who may not be able to return and Bubba Powers noted some students with underlying conditions who can’t return. Powers also noted he had been tested for COVID-19 and noted the test was very simple and he understood no one tested positive. Continuing the survey results, Dr. Hart noted about 23% of respondents said they are not comfortable sending their children to schools and will utilize the schools online instruction. The board also discussed staggered schedules. Dr. Hart noted they just want to provide the safest situation for students and staff. Also discussed were the students who didn’t return their AMI packets. Football was discussed. Dr Hart said he thinks if they’re going to start school they should also include activities such as sports and band; however he said he knows COVID could hurt students and families and he will do whatever is needed to keep students safe. Dr. Hart also noted he’d sent notifications to parents about students receiving an EBT card.

The board then looked at student handbook revisions. These were approved as presented.

The board discussed personnel policies. Lengthy discussion ensued before there were approvals.

The board voted to spend $93,000 with CDI Technologies for Chromebooks for the high school.

The board looked at spending some CARES funding for new laptops for teachers. The board voted to spend approximately $254,000 for these laptops.

The board approved a resolution which would allow the district to modify policy quicker during the COVID-19 situation.

The board voted to allow the district to sell four excess busses. The district still has plenty of buses. The buses are 18 to 21 years old.

The board accepted a bid for some abatement at the Garland Cafeteria.

Personnel matters closed out the unusually long meeting.