The Roanoke County School Board has elected Catawba member, Brent Hudson, to continue as board chairman for 2024. Hudson was first elected chairman in 2023. The board also elected Windsor Hills member Cheryl Facciani as the vice-chairman. This is her first term.
They were nominated at the first School Board work session of the year on Jan. 4 by Tim Greenway, who represents the Vinton District on the School Board. The two remaining seats are held by newly elected Shelley Clemons of the Cave Spring District (replacing Mike Wray who did not run for re-election) and David Linden, who represents the Hollins District.
Roanoke County Public Schools (RCPS) Director of Facilities and Operations Todd Kageals made presentations to the board on several potential projects.
The board discussed using solar panels to produce electricity in county schools after a presentation from Katherine Knight of Sun Tribe, solar providers based in Charlotteville. The company has worked in Virginia with 15 school systems, including Arlington, Henrico, Pittsylvania, Fairfax, and Chesterfield County schools, and Newport News, as well as Virginia Tech.
RCPS is considering a pilot project to provide solar energy to Cave Spring High School (CSHS) through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). A PPA through Sun Tribe (or another provider) could lock in electric rates lower than what RCPS is currently paying AEP at no cost to RCPS.
Under a PPA, RCPS would agree to purchase power at a predetermined rate for the life of the agreement. Sun Tribe (or another provider) would install and maintain the system for the life of the agreement. CSHS would remain “grid tied” and would draw power from AEP as needed. The proposal for CSHS projects approximately $1,961,000 in savings over the life of the agreement (25 years). RCPS currently pays approximately $.12/kwh for electricity from AEP.
Under a PPA with Sun Tribe, the school system would pay less than what it currently pays AEP; the cost for electricity from Sun Tribe would not change over the life of the agreement. According to Kageals, entering into a PPA would allow RCPS to gain experience with solar energy at no cost, and at a guaranteed rate providing budgetary certainty from year to year.
Knight also noted that Sun Tribe offers curriculum content to be used in classrooms to educate students on renewable energy.
The board decided to continue the solar panel discussion at future meetings, after “due diligence” in speaking with other school systems currently using solar energy.
Kageals had been asked to provide pricing to pave the two play areas at Bonsack Elementary School. Both are in poor condition and have previously been repaired. The cost of the project would be $95,000 to be appropriated from minor capital special projects.
After discussion, the board decided to complete an assessment on paving needs in play areas at other county elementary schools to determine which ones are most in need of repair before making a decision on Bonsack.
After a presentation by Finance Director Susan Peterson, School Board members considered an application for a federal electric school bus grant program. After discussion, they concluded that electric buses could be dangerous, may not be suitable for mountainous terrain, would require installation of charging stations and hiring someone to work on the electric vehicles. The buses must be recharged between routes generally, and they are more costly to purchase than regular diesel buses ($360,000 vs. $120,000).
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of 2021 authorizes the EPA to offer rebates to replace existing school buses with clean and zero-emission (ZE) models. The 2023 Clean School Bus (CSB) Rebates process includes SAM.gov account registration, rebate application submission, review, and selection by EPA. Selectees then submit purchase orders to request payment and then receive payment, which is followed by new bus delivery, existing bus replacement, and project closeout.
Although Roanoke County Public Schools applied for the electric bus grant from the EPA in 2022, the school system was not awarded the grant. This year’s application for the Clean Bus Rebate is due on Jan. 31. After discussion, the board instructed staff not to spend any more time on the grant application. Chairman Hudson commented that the use of electric buses is not fiscally responsible at this point for the county with its mountainous topography.
At the work session, the School Board approved the list of meeting dates and times for 2024. School Board meetings will take place at 6 p.m. Work sessions will take place at 3:30 p.m. Meetings are scheduled to take place as follows (dates and times are subject to change):
- School Board work sessions are scheduled for Feb. 1, Mar. 7, Mar. 19, Apr. 4, May 2, Jun. 6, Jul.11, Aug. 1, Sept. 5, Oct. 3, Nov.7, and Dec. 5.
- School Board meetings are scheduled for Jan.18, Feb. 22, Mar. 21, Apr. 18, May 16, Jun. 20, Jul. 18, Aug. 15, Sept. 19, Oct. 17, Nov. 14, and Dec. 19.
All meetings and work sessions will take place at the Roanoke County Public Schools Central Office at 5937 Cove Road in Roanoke. Meetings are open to the public. In-person meeting attendance may be limited, and citizens may have to use overflow rooms. Citizens of Roanoke County or parents, students, or employees of Roanoke County Public Schools who wish to address the School Board in person must sign up in advance by 8 a.m. on the morning of the meeting using the form found at www.rcps.us/schoolboard.
-The Salem Times-Register