Berkeley Heights Board of Education to Conduct Feasibility Study on Solar Panels For All Schools

The Berkeley Heights Board of Education met Thursday evening.
Denis Smalley (left) discusses the possibility of installing solar panels at all schools in Berkeley Heights.
Students from Governor Livingston High School attended Thursday night's Board of Education meeting to request that Open Campus be reinstated for seniors. The board agreed.

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ -- Berkeley Heights schools may be going solar.

During the board of education meeting Thursday night, board member Denis Smalley reported that he and a committee of district representatives, student representatives, and town residents met with five engineering firms to determine the feasibility of installing solar panels in the roofs of all the schools.

The board agreed to hire USA Architects, the district’s architect of record, and their consulting firm, Birdsall Services Group, which has handled solar projects throughout New Jersey.

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The next step is to conduct a feasibility study, during which the consultant will visit each school to see if the roofs can handle solar panels.

“When we did all the roofing projects back in 2005, USA Architects did them with the expectation that at some point, we may be going solar,” said John Sincaglia, president. “They had the foresight to make sure we had the assurance of the manufacturer that we could do this in the future. Sometimes putting in solar panels voids the warranty.”

If the feasibility study determines that it is possible for schools to have solar panels installed, the next step will be to put out a request for proposals to power purchase agreement providers.

“If it’s feasible for the power company and us, the cost we lay out up front will be recovered in full as part of the purchase power agreement,” Sincaglia said. “It would save the district a considerable amount of money in electrical costs.”

In other business:

  • Business Administrator Donna Felezzola reported that the new online scheduling system is now in place and being used. The online system replaces the former paper requests that had to be submitted when any school or community group wanted to use space in a school. The district is no longer taking any paper requests.

“Since August we have had over 1,100 requests for space in our buildings,” Felezzola said. “We are working through those now to make sure everyone gets the space they need.

Board member Mary Ann Walsh said she talked with parents at Back to School Night and many said their biggest concern is that some groups have been having regular meetings in the same location for decades and are now concerned they will be relocated.

Felezzola said request are prioritized as they come in.

“We do all school and community organizations first,” she said. “And within those parameters, it’s first come, first served.

Sincaglia said the process is handled the same way it was with paper requests.

“We haven’t changed the first-come first-served basis, all we’ve changed is the way people submit a request,” he said.

  • The board approved a request from students at Governor Livingston High School to reinstate Open Campus for seniors, which allows them to leave school for lunch. Five members of the student council attended the board meeting to present the request.

The board voted unanimously to reinstate the privilege. In order to be allowed to participate in Open Campus, students must have at least a C average.

“I met with the student council and I’m confident they will use the Open Campus privilege in a respectful way,” said Superintendent Judith Rattner, adding to the student council representatives that she is relying on them to be the key communicators to the rest of the senior class.

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