The decision will be made soon on whether to install solar panels at Monte Vista High and some other schools in the district, and Superintendent Steve Enoch said it is probably a go.
Talking to the Alamo Municipal Advisory Council this evening, Enoch said that solar wasn't even on his radar until the state offered low interest "Qualified School Construction Bonds" in the amount of $25 million to individual districts as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Enoch said that 240 school districts applied for the bonds and 44 names were drawn, including the San Ramon Valley Unified School District.
"The cost to the School District is 1.5 percent interest that we have to pay back, along with the principal," Enoch said.
He stated that he approves of the project.
"I think we should be good stewards of our environment," he said. "Of course we need to make sure there is enough savings each year and enough to put in a 'sinking fund' for when they need to be replaced some day."
He said a diligent committee has been meeting with solar energy experts, and the informal recommendation is to move forward. However, he noted, "I have my say, the board gets its way."
The plan at Monte Vista is to install carports over student parking areas with fixed tilted solar panels on top. Some have trackers that follow the course of the sun.
Enoch noted the irony of talking about the investment during this tough budgetary time, but remarked that this low interest loan was "use it or lose it."
He said that no matter what discussions take place in the district, the big elephant in the room is its looming $30 million shortfall over the next two years.
"It's the same at most public agencies, we're all in this together," he said. "I try not to get on the bandwagon and beat up our legislators - too much."
He said they are anticipating bad times for the next three years, but that SRVUSD is better off than some districts because it is growing. It added 1,000 students this year, and 1,000 last year, he said, with all of the growth in Dougherty Valley.
He noted that there are three ways to save money in a school district:
1. Cut programs and services
2. Raise class sizes
3. Make salary concessions
"We can't get there until we talk about labor costs," he said. "We're having serious conversations with the employee organizations."
He said the goals are to keep people employed; to keep class sizes down; and to maintain solvency.
"It's disheartening to me at a really deep level," he said. "I don't believe our teachers and employees are overpaid."
And he remarked that he believes in the value of smaller class sizes.
"We're losing more than $800 per student - it will show up somehow," he said.
"Are school closures on the plate at all?" asked MAC member Steve Mick.
Enoch said he has pushed out a lot of ideas, including choosing a school to convert to a preschool learning center but the idea was very new to everyone.
"I don't know if we will go there," he said.
Enoch said he doesn't see Alamo Elementary being targeted, as it was 25 years ago, because it is sitting by itself at the far north end of the district.
He also said he knows that renovations still need to be done at Stone Valley Middle School. Although this is a good time for construction due to competitive bidding, he explained, no one wanted to talk about a bond election at this time.