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Escambia County schools getting upgrades

Special to Atmore News

If you were buying a house, you’d probably have an inspection done to make sure everything works, if the roof needs to be replaced, and what might be a problem in the future.
The Escambia County School System is getting a full-blown inspection of its schools and facilities – because one of the biggest expenses the Escambia County School System has is the utility bill. And since some of the school air conditioners are around 25 years old, there’s a lot of money to be saved with new energy-efficient equipment.
That’s why Deputy of Operations and Facilities Shaun Goolsby will be working with a company to not only reduce the bill, but improve facilities.
The Board of Education has contracted with Schneider Electric, a company that will inspect every school and facility to determine what needs to be replaced or upgraded in order to save money that would be better used in the classroom.
Goolsby already knows the power bill can be reduced.
“We want to be better stewards of the school board’s money,” he said. “We need to find out how much we’re wasting in utilities.”
There’s also the matter of remote control. Right now one school has an HVAC system with only two settings: full blast or off, with no remote control. A new system will not only let Goolsby remotely control temperature in schools when they’re not in use, but will alert him when there’s a problem.
“One of the goals is automated control, Goolsby said. “If an air conditioner in a school goes out on a Saturday, I’ll get an alert and I can have it immediately repaired so the students won’t arrive to a hot classroom on Monday.”
Another school has a very high water bill that can’t be explained. Schneider Electric will determine the cause. Also on the chopping block: incandescent lighting to be replaced with LEDs. Roofs will also be inspected.
While retooling an entire school system won’t be cheap, there are more than a million dollars in federal funds available through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER). In addition, Schneider Electric also provides grant writing as they search for available money which can be earmarked for school projects. So, Goolsby said the remodeling project will basically be a self-funded plan.
While Goolsby waits for the inspection results, his staff is busy sprucing up the three high school football stadiums, with fresh paint, cleaning, pressure washing and new handrails. In addition, ground will be broken later this month for the new Escambia County High School Field House.
When Goolsby receives the final report from Schneider, his job will be to determine the difference between want and need. And once the to-do list is settled, work can begin immediately.

Brewton resident Randy Tatano is a veteran TV news reporter and network producer, and is currently a novelist and freelance writer for the Escambia County School System.