Panther Valley School District has received a project update from Schneider Electric, the firm that the district retained to conduct a detailed energy analysis and provide a proposal for upgrades that could save the district money.

According to the report that was provided by them and presented by District Maintenance Supervisor George Krajnak, the District is currently spending $520,640 annually on energy. This includes both electricity and fuel. With the proposed improvements provided by Schneider, the District could realize savings of $111,654 annually.

However, the district needs to move on these items in order to make them happen by the next school year.

"Tomorrow, the 15th, Schneider will receive the bids from the contractors for the work that is proposed," said Krajnak. Following the receipt of the bids, they would be reviewed by the administration on January 21st, the finance and building and grounds committees, which will meet jointly on January 25th, and it would be on the agenda for the next board meeting on January 28th. Krajnak said that the drop dead date to accept the bids is February 9th, due to the fact that special air handlers have to be ordered. If that date is met, the improvements would be completed before the start of the 2010-2011 school year.

The project proposal includes HVAC equipment replacement, automation system improvements for all three school buildings, building envelope air sealing, a conversion from electric heat to hot water heating, improvements to the natatorium, all in the high school, and a retrofit of gymnasium lighting in both the high school and elementary building. Krajnak said that although the bids haven't been received yet, the rough estimate for the cost of improvements should be around $3 million. The savings that will be realized by the District should cover the cost of the debt service.

Krajnak also announced that he had been working with Jack Hubbard, the Pennsylvania State coordinator of Operation Lifesaver, an educational safety program about railroad crossings, and that there will be an Operation Lifesaver program held at the elementary school on Friday, January 22nd.

The board also voted to direct the Carbon and Schuylkill County tax claim bureaus not to collect delinquent taxes on behalf of the school district. Director Mickey Angst expressed concern that continuing to utilize another party to collect delinquent taxes will only aggravate the ongoing lawsuit between Carbon County and the School District. "Let's just go back with the County," he said.

The board also ratified the request for proposal for the Race to the Top Grant. According to Superintendent Rosemary Porembo this is a federal program that requires the cooperation of the school board, the administration, and the teachers' union. However, Porembo warned that it is a federal program which could potentially come with unfunded mandates. "That will fall on the pocketbooks of the local tax payers," she said. "Don't get too excited until you see the dry ink."

After the meeting, Porembo said that the grant could benefit the district, including development of a standards aligned system (SAS), a multi-measure evaluation, and professional development and training. Some of the potential costs to the district could involve hiring more staff and putting more accountability measures into place.