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North Crawford Board revises calendar and considers solar power project
North Crawford

NORTH CRAWFORD - At their regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, March 21, the North Crawford School Board approved a revised calendar, and considered a proposal for a solar power project at the school.

Following a spirited debate about what day of the week students would have early releases for teacher in-services at their last meeting, the administration took the question back to the teachers. Originally, after consulting with the teachers, the day was moved from Friday to Wednesday.

“A large percentage (70 percent) of our staff members felt we needed to be consistent with our early releases as they were last year,” Munson said. “Thus they voted to keep them on Fridays.”

Munson said there were some strong arguments for both Wednesdays and Fridays for the early releases, but ultimately the teachers and administration decided for the sake of families and students, to keep it the same as for the 2017-18 school year.

Solar power project

Alicia Leinberger from Ethos Green Power, Viroqua, gave an informal presentation on her company and on a potential partnership with the school district to provide solar energy options.

Leinberger told the group that Ethos Green Power LLC was established in 2013 with the objective of creating an independent green power economy that results in energy self-reliance. Ethos organizes stakeholders who want to buy renewable energy and who want to build renewable systems into a market, thus growing the total amount of green energy.

Leinberger presented a cost estimate for a 21kW ground-mount solar system, which includes the various incentives which might be available, depending on the business structure of the project.

Incentives include a Focus on Energy grant for $4,000 from the state; a Solar for Good grant which could pay for 20 percent of the project cost (rural and educational institutions receive priority in selection); a tax credit of 30 percent of the system, which is commonly used for municipal projects through a community investment model; and accelerated depreciation, which also requires a community investment model.

“Ethos has a community investment structure and operating agreement available for the school district’s use at no charge,” Leinberger told the board. “We used it to fund a 25kW system at Kickapoo Coffee, and it has been heavily vetted by top tax accountants and energy lawyers.”

Leinberger explained the different kinds of memberships available for the community investment structure, which is an LLC. One type of member is a tax equity member whose investment is returned only in tax benefits; debt equity members receive a disbursement annually at a reasonable rate (4-5 percent) over a term of six years or more.

“When the debt is paid down and the tax equity exhausted, typically at year five or six, then the array becomes the property of the school district to provide free electricity for the next couple of generations,” Leinberger said.

Ethos would provide turnkey design and installation; a five year warranty and local maintenance; continuous monitoring and troubleshooting for maximum production; an educational partnership in the community and with students; and an investment structure, help in recruiting member investors, and upkeep of LLC structure through the term.

Leinberger told the board that the total invoice for the system, before credits and incentives would be $56,378. After credits and incentives, the net cost would be $11,789. A twenty-year estimated savings for the district in electricity costs is $78,050.

Board member Jim Dworschack has been very interested for the last couple of years in bringing a solar solution to the school district.  The board has listened to presentations from other groups in the past, but none of those solutions met the needs of the school district. 

“We are going to explore the feasibility of a couple different grants that are available for those wishing to install solar,” said Superintendant Brandon Munson. “If the grants are attained, we will then begin the process of looking for community investors to help offset the cost of the solar array.” 

Munson explained that the district’s primary motivation for this isn't simply to save energy costs for the district, but rather to be a leader in the area in renewable energy. 

“There are endless options as to how the district can incorporate the solar array into our day-to-day school curriculum,” Munson said, “as well as forming community partnerships who support renewable energy options.”

Administrative reports

Instructional Services Coordinator Holly Jones informed the board that bids are in for the middle school physical science and chemistry curriculums. Jones said that the goal is to make the purchase by the end of the school year so the teachers have the curriculum in their hands over the summer.

Jones also told the board that the Second Step curriculum for Guidance, grades 6-8 had arrived and that Guidance Counselor Zoe Ellerbusch has begun integrating lessons with the kids.

Business Manager Demetri Andrews told the board that additional sparsity aid was signed into law by Governor Walker on Monday, March 11, at Riverdale High School. The previous law allowed for $300 per student, and the new law for the 2018-19 school year provides for $400 per student. In 2017-18 the district received $138,180 in sparsity aid. In 2018-19, the amount will increase by $45,500 for a total of $183,680.

Committee reports

Transportation Supervisor Jerred Powell reported that the new driver has worked into the Bus Two route “almost seamlessly, and that it is nice to have another driver willing to pick up extra driving as the busy spring season is approaching fast.”

The Foodservice Team reported results of their USDA audit to the board. Overall, auditors reported no fiscal findings, and said that North Crawford had a beautiful facility and was doing amazing work.

The auditors are requiring the district to use a tracking tool to ensure the district is charging enough for vending items, a la carte items and adult meals. The tool has not previously been used, but will be used retroactively, with any recommended price changes to be implemented for the 2018-19 school year. The district will be required to put out an extra grain or meat alternate three days per week on the cereal side of the breakfast offering. They are currently exceeding their requirement on the hot meal side.

The district’s vending machines are currently carrying items not allowed under the Smart Snack Guideline. The district is allowed to have plain water, and 8 oz. juice or milk. A provider that offers these items is currently being researched. The district is in compliance on the ‘Buy American’ provision.

Guidance Counselor Zoe Ellerbusch reported that the Pre-K through third grade students are continuing with the theme of ‘Putting a Stop to Bullying.’ Meanwhile, the kindergarten through third grade is also working with the Second Step unit on bullying.

“The curriculum is very engaging and useful for students,” Ellerbusch reports. “It includes lots of team problem solving and short media clips. I look forward to learning and using more of the curriculum this spring in anticipation of a full roll out in the fall.”

She reported that the fourth and fifth grades are continuing to work through decision-making and influence, with the fifth grade focused on tobacco prevention. The sixth through eighth grade are monitoring their short-term SMART goals and discussing barriers to achievement.

Ellerbusch reports that much of her time in February and March has been spent setting up spring testing. Juniors completed ACT testing on Feb. 27, and ninth and tenth grade students attended a Careers ACTion event at Southwest Technical College on Feb. 28.

Director of Special Education/School Psychologist Chuck Norton reported that Special Education staff is continuing to make adjustments to accommodate the large changes in the department this school year. New staff is performing well, and students needs are being met at an ever-higher level. Preparation is underway for the 2018-19 school year, with the goal of matching staff skills and student needs.

In other business the board:

Accepted the resignations of Martha Buening, Secondary Math/FACE; Emily Kamps, Elementary Paraprofessional; Amanda Wedeberg, Varsity Volleyball Coach; and Chris Wettstein, Junior Varsity Volleyball Coach.

Confirmed Mike Allbaugh as Head Track Coach, and Joseph Doty as Assistant Boys Track Coach.

Confirmed Liz Bransky as Head Girls Track Coach, and Jesse Swenson as Volunteer Girls Coach.

Confirmed Tyler Dornick for Summer Rec Baseball; the Summer Rec Softball remains TBD.