School district grapples with energy efficiency, technology upgrades

Published: Sep. 27, 2016 at 11:11 PM CDT
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Bay District School officials are working through high energy bills, technology needs, and school volunteers. Those were all on the agenda during Tuesday's school board meeting.

Before the board meeting began, district staff and board members met for a series of workshops.

Among them were discussions on the district's energy bill, technology needs in the classroom, and the new beach elementary school.

According to the district's facility manager, John Bozarth, the district uses 20 percent more energy than the state average. In the last five years, 80 percent of the $27 million spent on equipment replacement was related to energy reduction.

That's why the district has now approved the hiring of an energy conservation manager. Richard Buzard, the new hire, is already seeking to help schools improve their energy efficiency and conservation.

"It's going to be fun and challenging," Buzard said. "You know to dig in, see what's there, what's going on, what's real and then what needs to be done in a cost effective manner."

Buzard said he's already seen things to improve in the district office, which is one of the highest energy users in the district. Tuesday, the board officially approved Buzard's hiring.

Bozarth also shared with the board updates to the new school coming to the beach. You can see NewsChannel 7s recent story about it in the attached links.

During the workshops, board members also heard from staff of ways to improve assessment principles and practices and a pilot program in the middle schools to bring every student a computer to use 24/7 during the school year.

While that pilot program is on hold while district staff collects more data, the board did approve a grant to buy more classroom computers.

Thanks to state dollars, the district will begin beefing up the arsenal of computers for student use. The board approved using money from the Florida legislature, called Digital Classroom Dollars.

The state has said there are not enough computers to take computerized state testing, such as the Florida Standards Assessments.

The district will use the majority of the money to buy 1,600 new Chromebooks.

He said the allocation will bring the district where it needs to be with electronic devices and speed up the testing process.

"And the faster you can do state testing the less distractions you have in the classroom both at the elementary, middle, and high school level so that there's more time on task for the subject areas that those students are in as opposed to having to pull them out of class for state testing," he said.

Neves also said being familiar with computers will help students in their future careers. He said they might expect computers in the classrooms in the next few weeks. They'll also be for classroom use.

Later in the board meeting, board members discussed policy changes regarding school volunteers. For a third time members spent meeting time discussing the changes to a policy they've already approved.

The policy requires school volunteers in unsupervised settings to get a more thorough background check. A task force last week made changes further defining "unsupervised settings." Volunteers must pay for the background check unless the school's principal can find other ways to pay for it.

The board must advertise this change before voting on it again and make the adjustments official.