Snow days take last of Spring Break; more snow will extend school year

Wednesday, March 5, 2003

GREEN FOREST ---- Snow days and a geothermal system for the new multi-purpose building were the top subjects school board members discussed when they met in special session Monday night.

At their February meeting, two days of Spring Break were taken to make up for excessive snow days.

Since that time, students and staff missed another five days because of snow and ice.

As a result, the board decided to take all of Spring Break, plus Good Friday, and a teacher in-service day that was scheduled for March 19. That will take care of days lost.

If inclement weather causes additional closings, the school year will be extended.

"The reality of it," said Superintendent Dr. Larry Bennett, "is that we'll have to add days on if we miss more."

He also suggested that next year's school calendar make it clear that Spring Break is optional.

In other business, the board discussed mechanical and electrical systems for the multi-purpose building that will be constructed with funds generated from a bond refinancing package that voters approved.

Specifically, they talked about a geothermal system to heat and cool the building.

Board member Brian Ayers made it clear that he wanted an energy efficient building because of rising fuel costs.

"I'm looking long term," he said. "I want this building to be energy-efficient. Geothermal is the only way to go."

Greg Anderson, with Green Anderson Engineers, was present to offer information on geothermal systems. Anderson said he was ready to go out for bid on a system for a Springdale school and he had done quite a bit of research to get to that point.

Geothermal systems cost more initially to install than a conventional system, he said, but there are significant energy savings, and the systems tend to last longer.

Asked about the downfalls, Anderson said the initial cost was a factor, and the underground installation must be done by a qualified contractor.

"There are both good and bad systems out there," he explained. "Some schools in Arkansas have had problems. The installation is important and must be done by pre-qualified installers."

Anderson also noted that Trane, the dominant heat and air company, will sometimes pay the cost up front for energy saving systems.

However, they usually make the offer for retrofits, rather than new construction. For this reason, Anderson suggested that the board consider a retrofit project, along with new construction, to increase their chances of meeting Trane's requirements. He said he would try to have a Trane representative at their next school board meeting.

Also during the evening, Bennett asked the board why seniors don't attend classes the last two weeks of school.

"The state says students must attend school 178 days. It doesn't say they get off two weeks early," he stated. "Why do they graduate early, and what do teachers of seniors do for those weeks?"

None of the board members could adequately answer, only to say that they believed it was a tradition. "No one has ever asked," stated one of the board members.

"This is something we'll look at in the future," Bennett promised.

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