School board moves ahead on solar project

FRANKTON — The Frankton-Lapel Community School Corp. took another step toward greater fiscal independence as the board approved plans for a solar panel and LED lights project.

Along with the vote, which took place in a public hearing before a recent board meeting, came news the project could be more cost-effective than originally figured.

Superintendent Robert Fields said on Thursday, June 8, that the district will finance the project at a 3.34 percent interest rate, lower than the anticipated 3.8 percent.

He said the interest savings will pay for changes to the Lapel Middle School roof, where the panels will be installed.

“It’s going to be about $500,000 to bolster the roof,” Fields said. “Even putting that into the cost of the project, it’s going to be a positive cash flow for us for all 20 years.”

Johnson-Melloh, the company the board approved last month to be the qualified provider for the project and help find financing, is working to find additional savings. The company is helping the corporation apply for Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs). These federally granted loans have a 1.9 percent interest rate.

“That would be an even better cash flow situation for the corporation,” Fields said. “We haven’t heard back on that — there are a lot of people trying to get their hands on that money. If we can get the federal loan, that would be a lot cheaper for us.”

Fields did not have an estimate on the total savings that would go along with the CREBs loan, except to say it would be “substantial.”

In a separate project, the corporation will improve several facilities through a refinancing of bonds, which netted $1.3 million. The fund will be used to repave parking lots at the administration building and Lapel Middle School, add parking at Lapel High School, improve flooring and add bleachers for the Lapel Elementary School auxiliary gymnasium, and improve the library at Lapel High School.

The paving projects were awarded to E&B Paving for a bid of $423,768.

In other business:

• Assistant Superintendent Sterling Boles outlined ideas for adding virtual classes to the corporation, including AP classes.

“The thought process is that there is a segment of our population that we aren’t meeting their needs,” Boles said. “This is another way that, as a public school, we can offer those services to those who live here or nearby.”

No action was taken, but it is an idea the board will look at more closely in the future.

• The board discussed the possibility of altering the way graduates are honored, including doing away with the naming of valedictorians and salutatorians and changing the qualifications for the Academic Hall of Fame. The advent of weighted classes could change the requirement for the Hall of Fame from a 3.5 to a 3.75 grade-point average.

Fields said a student could take fewer classes to gain an edge in GPA over students taking a full class load. His concern was that classes in the arts, including band or drama, could be hurt in the process.

• Health claims for the month of May were at $340,810, an increase of just under $150,000 compared to May 2016. For the year, claims still remain down from a year ago by $21,999.

• The board accepted the resignations of Lapel Middle School social studies teacher Zach Scott, and Lapel High School special education teacher Morgan Julian and band director Andrew Steck.

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Rob Hunt covers news, sports and other happenings in South Madison County. He can be reached at or (765) 778-2324.