School board approves installation of solar panels at high school

Published 6:07 am Tuesday, May 16, 2023

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What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, as Albert Lea school board members approved an agreement with iDeal Energies to install solar panels on the high school during Monday’s meeting. The board approved an agreement last year with iDeal Energies to install panels at Halverson Elementary School and Southwest Middle School. 

According to Finance Director Jennifer Walsh, construction on the Halverson and Southwest projects is scheduled to start this week.

“This project was preliminarily awarded a $102,000 grant to do an additional solar project,” said Rich Ragatz, a representative from the company. 

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Ragatz said the company would do everything to put the panels together.

There will not be money charged upfront.

“You guys, starting year one, would save 63% on the energy that’s created from the solar array, and we operate and maintain the solar array during the payback and provide educational materials that hopefully will be incorporated in the classrooms,” he said.

By his estimates, the project would take up about 4,000 square feet of rooftop space.

“We pay rent so that we can monetize the tax credit behind the scenes,” he said. “We pay you $50 annually.”

Each year the district would pay iDeal a portion of revenue.

iDeal would also provide a learning curriculum for fifth- or sixth-grade science as well as high school.

There would be no maintenance cost for the district for iDeal’s 20-year term with the district. The panels have a 40-year life-span, with a 25-year warranty. Panels would be at a 10-degree angle facing the south and set 10 feet from the roof’s edge.

“You may or may not see it depending on what topography’s like,” he said.

There would not be any roof penetration either.

Board member Gary Schindler then asked how much energy consumption the project would provide for the school.

“I don’t know the number exactly but it’s probably 5, less than 10% of your energy,” Ragatz said, noting it would be a small array as that was what was currently allowed through. When asked if the project could be expanded down the road if it was allowed, he said it could.

iDeal Energies has existed since 2010 and has done over 600 solar projects around Minnesota.

“We’re up to like 160 schools today — 41 I think we’re going to be doing this year,” he said.

The board also approved a resolution from Kathy Niebuhr, executive director of administrative services, to not renew temporary and probationary teachers with out-of-field permission variances that allowed them to teach things other than what they’re licensed in.

“These staff members knew when they were hired that they would be non-renewed at the end of this school year,” she said.

This will affect teachers working on special education and English learner licenses.

“These are hard-to-fill positions, and these people are licensed, but not in this area,” she said. “We’re allowed to get them an out-of-field permission to teach in other areas.”

All of these teachers will be eligible to re-apply for their positions for the next school year.

In his report to the board, Ron Wagner, superintendent of Albert Lea Area Schools, wanted to recognize and congratulate the class of 2023. This will be Wagner’s first time recognizing a class as the district’s superintendent.

“It’s been a privilege to work with them,” he said.

The board honored three employees of the month: Robert Jackson, Paige Shaw and Randy Sandmaier.

In a nomination letter, Chris Dibble, principal at the high school, said Jackson, the April employee of the month, always had a smile, was respectful and tried to make the high school a better place to learn and work.

Paige Shaw, the March employee, is an administrative assistant at the Albert Lea Area Learning Center. Part of her nomination letter stated students who were stressed or upset often returned to class in a different mood after speaking with Shaw. 

Last month, the district spent $2.566 million, with over $2.2 million coming from the general fund. The district received donations totaling $8,700, with the largest donation from a Freeborn County SHIP grant.

The board hired Zackary Kruger, Darci Rasmussen, Barb Beseman, Benjamin Fistler, Tanya Herbst and Kayla Scholz for a variety of positions. They approved leaves of absence for Mitzibelle Soto Lehocky, Lindsey Kozelsky and Lacey DeBoer, and accepted the retirement of Michael Garcia, They also approved resignations for Kari Rasmussen, Samantha Iversen, Moly Miller, Marissa Norby, Melinda Talamantes, Richard Sauvageau, John Mahal, Mitch Geislinger, Gina Klennert, Connie Meyer, La Poe Cho, Abigail Buchanan-Myers, Tiana Abrego, Trisha Whelan, Serena Sorensen and Alicia Leal. They also agreed to terminate Lisa Reuter.