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Kingsport BOE delays drug testing discussion, approves energy contract

Rick Wagner • May 6, 2018 at 12:00 PM

KINGSPORT — The city school board delayed discussion of a potential random student drug testing policy until a June retreat but approved a contract with a company that wants to at least explore installing LED lighting, solar panels and high-efficiency heating and cooling units in Kingsport City Schools.

DRUG TESTING DISCUSSION

At the beginning of the Tuesday night Board of Education meeting, President Susan Lodal said she wanted to delay a presentation about the potential drug policy, to be presented by Assistant Superintendent of Schools Andy True, until the all-day June 9 retreat. Unlike past years, when the BOE met in Gatinburg, the board plans to hold the event in Kingsport. Lodal said the retreat would allow more time for a thorough discussion of the matter.

The testing would come at a cost to the school system, depending on how many tests are given and how expensive they are, and no money for testing is in the 2018-19 budget the board recommended to the city at the Tuesday meeting.

Under Tennessee law, the board can implement random drug and alcohol tests for students in “voluntary extracurricular activities,” which school officials have discussed as including athletics, cheerleading and the spirit squad.

ENERGY CONTRACT

The board voted 4-0, with Carrie Upshaw absent, to enter into a contract with Ameresco on an energy savings services agreement, which grew out of an August 2017 presentation to the board that focused on LEDs, solar panels and more efficient HVAC units as projects that could, in effect, pay for themselves with savings.

Mike Norris of Ameresco said there would be no charge to the system to reach a 30 percent level of study on the prospects, with the system responsible for $40,000 in engineering costs if it backed out at the 60 percent level and $80,000 if it backed out at the 90 percent level. However, he said the payments would not be required if anywhere along the line the project turned out not to be feasible financially for both parties.

Bill Shedden, who oversees maintenance for the system, said the LED lighting is a certain money and energy saver, with some classrooms being able to go from 20 to 10 fixtures and maintain current lighting levels.

As for solar, Norris said the AEP/American Electric Power Solar Division was “highly, highly” interested in working with KCS and the city on solar panels, which could be owned and operated by the city, by AEP or by a joint venture. For instance, Norris said, KCS could sell power to AEP from a KCS-owned system, lease space to AEP for AEP-owned panels or some combination.

He said each phase, 30 percent, 60 percent and 90 percent, would take about 30 days to reach, and that KCS would have to make a decision within 60 days of reaching the 90 percent mark, under the contract.

Norris said tax incentives and credits for solar have all expired, most of them with President Donald Trump’s tax changes, but that AEP might have access to financial benefits that KCS wouldn’t. Shedden said AEP generally doesn’t allow those with solar panels to produce much more power than they consume and that converting to LEDs would save about 1 megawatt or $1 million a year in electricity costs.

“I don’t want to get into being a power company or a drug testing company,” board member Todd Golden said of the education system.

OTHER ITEMS 

The board also:

— Received a report on The Leader In Me Program from Johnson Elementary School. The program started in one North Carolina school and has grown to thousands of schools worldwide, including Johnson and Jackson in Kingsport City Schools.

— Received a report on and honored the Dobyns-Bennett High School Student Council for recently winning a 4 Star Award from the Tennessee Association of Student Councils.

— Received a report on and honored the D-B EXCEL M.A.T.E. Underwater Robotics Team for winning first place overall and other awards in an April 28 competition. The acronym stands for Marine Advanced Technology Education.

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