ZACHARY — The School Board discussed plans Thursday to try to save a minimum of 10 percent on energy costs with a new reduction plan.
The school system spent $1.1 million last year on energy, Operations Director Patrick Jenkins told the board.
The board had previously approved $65,000 for buying software and meters from Gulf States Automation.
The “pulse” meters allow energy use monitoring in school buildings as well as automatic, remote management via computer. The new system will be able to automatically take into account humidity as well as temperature in regulating heating and cooling. The old system, which was put in place 7 or 8 years ago, only allowed tracking of energy use, Jenkins said.
After studying the issue, Jenkins decided not to buy the new meters for the Zachary High School football stadium and Northwestern Middle School’s auditorium and gym as called for in the original plan, reducing the total amount needed to implement the system to $41,500.
Putting a meter in the football stadium alone would have cost $4,800, he said.
“We have to make sure it’s cost effective. If it costs $40,000 to retrofit a building like Port Hudson, we need to look at how long will it take us to recoup that money,” he said.
Port Hudson Career Academy is not included in the energy reduction plan. The energy use in that school will be monitored by examining electric and gas bills.
Jenkins said that if it was cost effective, older buildings in the district could be brought online in the future.
All new buildings and additions will include the new controls, he said.
Board member Sharon Samuel mentioned seeing students wearing sweatshirts in school and questioned whether the cooling system was set too low.
“The chillers are set at a range and no one ever changed it. They’re probably running at full capacity now,” Jenkins said. The new system should save on maintenance since chillers will not be running at full capacity except when needed.
Other business before the board included:
ATHLETE DRUG TESTING: The board discussed a contract with Lane Medical Center to continue randomly drug testing student athletes. The school system has around 600 athletes and 44 were tested last year, Jenkins said. The contract remains unchanged, with a $15 fee for drug testing and a $34 charge when an initial test comes up positive and Workforce Medical Center is required to verify the results. No vote was required since the contract renews automatically, Jenkins said.
Board member Hubie Owen requested an explanation of why only 44 students were tested when Lane was supposed to be testing 12 students per month. Jenkins agreed to look into the issue.
EMPLOYEE POLICIES: The board unanimously approved two policy changes for district employees. Overtime may now be paid in compensatory time off or overtime pay, depending on the employee’s choice. Also, expense reimbursement for meals and tips during may be given to employees prior to travel.