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The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

The Saratoga Falcon

Board cancels gym renovations but continues with plans for solar panel carports for front parking lot

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Annie Liu
 Renovations to the school’s gym and additions of solar panels.

At its Oct. 17 meeting, the district boards announced the cancellation of major renovations for the school’s gyms due to an unforeseen rise in costs, but moved forward with plans to install several solar panel carports in the front parking lot in late 2024. The district conducted a walk-through with interested vendors on Oct. 10 and subsequently filed a Request for Proposal (RFP). The approval of vendors by the Board is pending, with a deadline for vendor submissions set for mid-November.

The gym is often used by P.E. classes and student-athletes, resulting in many advocating for renovating the gyms’ lockers and aging Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems. The main complaint is that the 1960-era gyms are either too hot when temperatures are warm outside and too cold in the winter, creating unsafe conditions for athletes.

However, despite preliminary estimates suggesting that the renovation costs would be around $1 million, an updated review by a contracted mechanical engineer found that total costs were likely to surpass $3.5 million, a sum that is more than the district can afford right now. District officials said the school would try to squeeze maximum efficiency out of the current system, but the decision came as a disappointment to those who have to play sports in the aging facility.

“We spent a lot of time during the summer meeting with the board to find a solution,” math teacher and girls’ JV basketball coach Lisa Gintetset-Araki said. “Now I’m just worried about what [the basketball team] is going to do in the winter.”

However, the board still plans to move forward with plans to install solar panels as an eco-friendly solution to power the school’s various energy needs. This decision comes after years of advocacy by student groups such as the Green Team and Green Committee. 

An energy audit by Sage Energy Consulting found that using solar panels could save the school $3.4 million over 25 years, with an annual reduction of 105 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. 

Installation of the eight large solar panel carports in the front parking lot is projected to cost around $10 million and could begin as early as October 2024. Work on the addition of solar panels and a general overhaul of the school’s energy system will split into two main phases: development and deployment. 

The development phase will consist of five sub-phases: determining the feasibility of utilizing solar energy, requesting to connect the solar panels to the local utility grid, evaluating the energy efficiency of the school as a whole, selecting a solar panel vendor and requesting a proposal for the overarching energy efficiency upgrade. The first three phases have been completed with the fourth nearing 25% completion.

The deployment phase will include the construction and installation of the solar panels, as well as the implementation of other energy efficiency solutions identified earlier. The current timeline indicates the final closeout of the deployment and installation phase will finish in November of 2024.

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