CCSD partners with SOLV Energy for scholarship challenge

Published 12:00 pm Saturday, January 22, 2022

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At the Chambers County School District school board meeting on Monday, CCSD Superintendent Casey Chambley announced that the school system had partnered with SOLV Energy, which is involved with a solar plant in LaFayette. The company, he said, is based in San Diego, California.

“We have partnered with SOLV Energy, and we are the first school system in the state of Alabama to partner with them in what’s called the PowerUp Challenge,” he said. “And what this does is we’re partnering with them at LaFayette High School.”

Chambley said the seniors at LaFayette High School will earn scholarships by participating in the challenge, which CCSD Assistant Superintendent David Owen said during an interview is designed to get them interested in renewable energy. Owen also said the challenge would take about six weeks. Chambley said he believed that school board president Jeffrey Finch and LaFayette Mayor Kenneth Vines would be helping judge the students’ competitive projects in February and March.

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“Some of the executives for SOLV Energy will be flying and making their first trips to Alabama ever in February and will be visiting our campuses,” he said. “And they will be teaching our students about renewable energy and about solar energy.”

The scholarships SOLV Energy will give to first, second and third place winners will be in the amounts of $1,500, $1,000 and $500, respectively.

“So we are very happy and proud to announce that partnership and look forward to working with SOLV Energy,” Chambley said.

When the board discussed personnel changes, Chambley said CCSD planned to start tutoring students after school and have transportation options for them afterward.

“We’ve had to push that back,” he said. “Now we’re on our second push back from two weeks due to COVID and trying to see if we could plateau our numbers for that. But our teachers are looking forward to getting started with this and looking forward to starting their tutoring. It’s tough finding people to help, as we saw during the summer.”

Chambley said that like everyone else around the state, CCSD is having a hard time finding teachers and welcomed potential teachers to apply.

Later on in the meeting, he announced that CCSD is in the process of bringing its bus fleet up to date.

“We had purchased 10 buses last spring,” he said. “They got here. They are on the road. This summer, we purchased six more, and it’s going to be about nine months before we can receive those. And this past week, we are about to purchase 10 more buses that we’re using [Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief] funds.

Chambley said the 10 buses CCSD is about to purchase will have air conditioning. As the school district buys more buses in the future, Chambley said it will try to transition to having all of its buses have air conditioning.

“However, the first option will be that the buses with air conditioning will be on the longest routes,” he said.

Plans are also for CCSD’s athletic departments to use air-conditioned buses instead of renting charter buses when it’s hot, he said, which will save money.

“We are very appreciative of the federal funds that we’re using to help us distance more on our buses and allow us to bring our bus fleet up,” he said. “Bus prices over the last nine to 10 months have increased over $10,000 a bus … So inflation is getting everyone and is pushing us on it, so we’re glad we’re going to get that going and get about 26, 27 new buses in about two years.”

In other business, the board approved the refinancing of a school bus loan with Farmers and Merchants Bank for a principal balance of $597,301.83. The interest rate will be 2.74 percent, which Chambley said was the lowest CCSD found. The monthly payments will be in the amount of $10,663.86. The loan will be funded from the State Fleet Renewal allocation.

“We’ll have another loan that will be rolling off in ‘24, ‘25, reducing our debt even more, which is going to increase our borrowing power later, which we’re going to need,” Chambley said.

The board also approved a couple of field trips. In one, the Valley High School Key Club would travel to Birmingham on Feb. 25 through Feb 27 to attend the Annual Key Club Convention. For the other, the Valley High School Art Guild would travel to Atlanta on March 17 to visit the High Museum.

In other business, Chambley announced that the school board had moved its February board meeting to Monday, Feb. 28.

“We’ve had to move this meeting due to our task force group that has been created, helping us work through a consolidated capital improvement plan that we are working on bringing to the board at the end of February,” he said.

Community meetings pertaining to the task force’s findings are scheduled for Valley and LaFayette on Feb. 7. The Valley meeting will take place at the Sportsplex in the Crowder room, and the LaFayette meeting will take place in the ALFA Insurance building. Times are to be announced. Chambley said the meetings will be held about 30 minutes apart. The Valley meeting will be about an hour and a half long. Community members are invited to participate.

For board recognition month, CCSD schools provided gifts for members of the school board. The gifts sat behind the middle table at the meeting. Chambley recognized each board member and their years of service.

School board president Jeffrey Finch joined the school board in 2006, Chambley said. Meanwhile, board vice president Vicki Leak joined in 2016. Board member William Martin, the former board president, joined in 1992. Candace Lyons joined in 2019, LaShae Herring started in 2018 and Jay Siggers joined in 2020.